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Social Policies and Distributional Outcomes Research Paper
Country level devolution: Scotland
Mark Stephens and Suzanne Fitzpatrick
November 2018
Paper No' SPDORP01:
Full Paper (pdf)

Tags: devolution; scotland

The Scottish Parliament has been in existence for nearly two decades. Its powers have been extended to cover a number of taxes and areas of social security in recent years. This paper examines the use of these powers and assesses 10 individual exemplar policies in distributional terms. These lie in the areas of taxation, social security and housing. It identifies that the values underpinning them are progressive, as are the individual policies themselves. They are also imbued with caution, with tax changes being designed to leave most people better or no worse off. Social security and housing policies are generally targeted at low income households or people who are otherwise vulnerable. Private rented tenancy reform is an exception, since it is designed to bring security to a broader range of the population. These policies do not tell the whole story, and a complete assessment would need to consider other areas notably education, as part of a wider assessment of where funding has been diverted from in order to finance priority areas. Many of the powers have been recently acquired and it is not possible to assess their outcomes. Looking to the future, there should be concern about the suitability of the funding base to finance spending ambitions. Meanwhile Scotland is developing new tax and social security institutions that may in time permit more strategic thinking about distributional policies.