Yes and No activists both said they wanted to see a system designed to provide a dignified, socially just and fair system, but differed on how it should be organised.
The Scottish campaign on Welfare Reform (SCoWR ) hosted a debate in the Lighthouse in Glasgow and asked campaigners supporting Yes Scotland and Better Together to respond to its Manifesto For Change.
Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland, and Danny McCafferty, former independent leader of West Dunbartonshire Council, argued for an independent Scotland to create a new welfare state, while Mike Dailly, of Govan Law Centre, and Kainde Manji, a disability rights campaigner, said benefits were best provided for under the larger United Kingdom.
Satwat Rehman, of One Parent Families Scotland, and a member of the SCoWR, challenged them on reforming the system.
She said: “We want to increase benefits to a allow a dignified life.
“Housing policy should not be undermined by the bedroom tax and the welfare of the child should not be undermined by benefit sanctions.”
Mr Jenkins said he was sure an independent Scotland would pursue a different path.
He said: “We could pursue a more progressive agenda. The day after a Yes vote everyone will work to make Scotland the country it can and should be.”
Mr Dailly agreed the system was not working the way it was intended.
He said: “The social security system is complicated in order to stop people getting money.
“It is not fit for purpose and has been eroded over the years.
“The Beveridge Report has been butchered and what we have now got is punishment and poverty.”
However, he said independence would lead to even lower public spending in Scotland and a weaker welfare system.”
Mr Jenkins however, said there is no prospect of change under the UK system.
He said: “The other Westminster parties are signed up to the austerity agenda.”
Ms Manji said she wanted resources used to tackle poverty more widely.
She said: “There are people in poverty here, but there are also people in poverty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“Voting Yes is not the fast way to get to a fairer society.”
Mr McCafferty asked what is the welfare system for.
He said: “The whole point was not to manage a system but to eradicate poverty. It is costing money because it is having no impact on poverty.”
He said Scotland needs to have complete control over welfare.
He said: “We need a Yes vote to allow us to be aspirational. It comes at a cost.”
However, he added: “It doesn’t matter the costs, social justice and equality that’s what counts.”
Around 100 people attended the debate with audience members raising concerns ab out leaving welfare in the hands of Westminster, the knock-on effects of benefit changes on family life and domestic violence and abuse, and others questioning if independence would make any difference despite the promises.
Ms Rehman concluded by asking for a commitment to change regardless of the result.
She said: “There is consensus the welfare system is not fit for purpose. We know there are issues and we know it needs to be paid for. We want to know how we are going to make it happen.”