THE money Scotland spends on nuclear weapons would instead be invested in a stronger social security system after independence, a Cabinet Secretary has said.

Speaking to media at the launch of the Scottish Government’s ninth white paper on independence, Shirley-Anne Somerville said that the “poor use” of money on nuclear weapons could be redirected with fuller powers.

The Social Justice Secretary was quizzed on how the Government might fund policies outlined in the white paper, which included a “minimum income guarantee”.

She said: “The minimum income guarantee, we've got an expert group looking at that at the moment. They've done an interim report, and they're due to report again finally next year.

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“What they'll show is what we can do under devolution, because there are some steps we could take under that, and what we would need the powers of independence for.

“That can be a variety of different things. It can be social security, it can be the introduction of public services – and we've got good foundations for that in Scotland already. There are a number of services that aren't available elsewhere in the UK, whether it's free prescriptions or whether it's free tuition, for example. So the minimum income guarantee effectively builds on that social contract that we've had.

“Obviously the decisions about how we can pay for that, under independence we will actually have the ability to have all of the powers to be able to make our own choices about how we can pay for things.

“Of course, there'd be certain things we wouldn't be paying for under independence as well, which would assist us again with the political choices that we make. Nuclear weapons being the most obvious example of something which we feel is a poor use of money and we should be investing in public services and in our people.”

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According to the white paper published on Wednesday, a minimum income guarantee represents “an ambition that would enable all households to live with financial security”.

It states that this minimum income level would be set “at a higher rate than UK Government benefits and be reviewed regularly to respond to real changes to the cost of living”.

The paper argues that most people would achieve the minimum income level anyway through “access to fair, paid work”, with top-up payments for people whose salary does not reach the threshold.

The National: Shirley-Anne Somerville

Elsewhere in the paper, the Scottish Government appeared to distance itself from exploring a universal basic income, saying “future governments” could look into the idea “if they wished”.

Scotland after independence, the paper said, would also scrap the current benefit sanction regime and replace budgeting loans with grants, ending the five-week wait for an initial payment.

According to the publication, more than £250 million would have to be paid out to implement the reforms – if they were to take place next year.

“This is not insignificant in itself but needs to be seen in the context of the £24.7 billion being spent on social security in Scotland by UK and Scottish governments in 2023-24,” it read.