A PUBLIC policy expert has hailed the Scottish Government’s “human rights” approach to social security.

Professor Stephen Sinclair of Glasgow Caledonian University – also director of the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit – told the Westminster Work and Pensions Committee that Edinburgh’s “style and culture” around benefits was different to that in the London government, as well as the benefits themselves being more generous.

He said claimants on Scottish benefits felt a residual “unease and suspicion” when interacting with social security agencies because of their experiences on the UK Government’s systems – comparing this with the “new more engaged human rights approach” of Social Security Scotland.

The agency has responsibility for administering Scottish welfare payments like the Scottish Child Payment and describes itself as prioritising “dignity, fairness and respect”.

READ MORE: SNP in call to Westminster to match Scottish Child Payment UK-wide

The SNP welcomed his comments but said it should not fall to Scotland to “pick up the broken pieces” of Westminster’s system.

Prof Sinclair said: “I think the most significant innovation in addition to substance is the manner and the style and the culture of social security in Scotland, so the Scottish Social security agency, which was set up after 2018 to administer and implement these new powers took an avowedly human rights approach to its operation.”

He added that there was “potential” for friction between the devolved and reserved benefits system because of their contrasting styles.

“That raises awareness of one of the issues of the areas of potential friction,” he said.

“This emphasis on citizens’ rights, of empowering people and engaging with experts with lived experience doesn’t necessarily always work well with what may be the traditional culture of Job Centre plus, and so there is still a legacy of unease, somewhat suspicion on the part of interactions between people engaging with Job Centre plus and the approach they have traditionally taken, the new more engaged human rights approach which Social Security Scotland have advanced.

“I should also say that beyond benefits, successive Scottish Governments and previous Scottish Executives have emphasised what they call developing a social wage, taking language from the 1970s, so looking beyond benefits directly in social security – addressing things like the cost of the school day, there have been significant increases in free school meals, in school clothing grants and really trying to engage a whole range of partners in ensuring increased uptake of benefits, so we have things like money advice located in GP surgeries and schools, an attempt to optimise, maximise benefit uptake which is part of this human rights and proactive engaged approach.”

SNP MP David Linden, who sits on the committee, said: “This comment once again highlights the tale of two governments. 

“On one hand, we have a Tory UK government who are committed to imposing devastating austerity measures on the poorest in our society.

READ MORE: 'Tory rule' sees record number of emergency food parcels delivered across UK

“While in contrast, the SNP Scottish Government, with their limited budget and powers, remain committed to helping those in need by introducing game-changing policies like the Scottish Child Payment – one of seven benefits only available in Scotland - which puts money directly into people’s pockets.

“It’s high time the Tories take note of such policies and follow suit.

“However, it shouldn’t be the job of the SNP Scottish Government to pick up the broken pieces left behind by an outdated, broken Westminster system.

“The only way to protect the long-term future of Scottish households and build a better, fairer social security system is through independence.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We recognise the pressures of the rising cost of living which is why we have a plan to halve inflation and have provided record levels of direct financial support – £1,200 for more than eight million vulnerable households last year and up to another £1,350 in 2023/24 for those most in need, including the latest £301 Cost of Living payment for over 686,000 families in Scotland.

“This is on top of uprating benefits by 10.1 per cent and making an unprecedented increase to the [minimum wage] last month, while our Energy Price Guarantee continues to hold down people’s energy bills.

“We are also giving the Scottish Government an extra £82m to help people in Scotland with essential costs - this is in addition to the significant welfare and housing powers they already have.”