Currently, carers in receipt of ­Carers Allowance get the lowest of all income replacement benefits

TOMORROW sees the publication of the second report of the Expert Working Group on Welfare.

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The Group was established to advise the Scottish Government on the principles that should underpin the welfare system in an independent Scotland.

The Group's first report looked at the mechanics of how pension and social security payments are delivered.

It found that much of the infrastructure - the offices, staff and systems - needed to deliver these payments in Scotland already exists here.

For example, every state pension paid to someone in Scotland is administered from one of two pension centres - one in Motherwell and the other in Dundee.

These pension centres are part of our share of UK assets that Scottish taxpayers have helped pay for and to which we would be entitled in the event of independence.

The second report of the Group will look more at the kind of social security system an ­independent Scotland should aspire to.

I am very much looking forward to considering its recommendations.

We already know that social security is more affordable in Scotland than it is in the rest of the UK - spending on social protection takes up a smaller share of our economic output and our tax revenues than is the case in the UK as a whole.

That puts us in a strong position.

However, we also know that, with powers over social security in the hands of Westminster, we are seeing the rapid erosion of the vital safety net that we would all rely on in times of need.

Under current Westminster policies - which Labour has no real plans to change - it is estimated that up to 100,000 more Scottish children could be living in poverty by 2020.

Taking decisions over social security into our own hands will give us the power to change that.

So tomorrow's report will offer welcome guidance to any future government of an independent Scotland on how to build a fairer system - one that expects those who can work to do so and gives them the support they need, but also provides a decent and humane safety net for those who can't work.

The report was submitted to the government at the end of last week and there is one recommendation that the SNP - if elected to be the government of an independent Scotland - has already committed to implement.

Currently, carers in receipt of Carers Allowance get the lowest of all income replacement benefits.

Carers Allowance is paid at the rate of £61.35 per week.

The Expert Group has recommended that this be increased to £72.40, the same level as Jobseeker's Allowance.

Such a move would make 100,000 carers in Scotland £575 a year better off.

I think it is right that we commit to making that change.

It is not all we need to do to support carers who do such an amazing job for their loved ones and for society as a whole - but it would be a big step in the right direction and one that the current Scottish Government is right to support.

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