The Scottish Government has admitted it still does not know where Dundee’s new social security headquarters will be based, despite launching a recruitment drive for the centre.
Holyrood is set to take control of 11 key benefits through a new Social Security Scotland system, with around 750 positions up for grabs in Dundee by 2021 after the city was chosen to host the agency’s headquarters.
However, ministers have faced accusations of being under-prepared for the handover of powers from Westminster amid concern over the cost of the project.
Social security minister Jeane Freeman visited City Quay on Wednesday to announce the launch of recruitment for the first 80 jobs at the welfare hub.
Asked where the new centre will be based, Ms Freeman said the Scottish Government are still “looking at a range of spaces ” and admitted she “can’t pinpoint it right now”.
“We are still in discussion with a number of organisations, including the council,” she said.
“We intend that it will be city centre-based and that it will be front facing – in other words, it will be open to people to come in and get advice and support about the benefits they might be entitled to.”
Ms Freeman’s admission comes despite David Wallace, chief executive of Social Security Scotland, confirming staff will be handed contracts “in the next few months”.
The minister has also previously said she expects at least 250 people to be employed by the agency by summer 2019, with a full workforce of 1,900 staff to be in place across the country by 2021.
North East MSP Bill Bowman said Dundee had been waiting for an employment boost like this “for some time” and it was a “pity that a home for these jobs has yet to be found”.
He said: “There are plenty of high-quality sites in the city and broader economic benefits to be had. The chance to build a new workforce for local people cannot be allowed to go to waste.”
The welfare powers being devolved to Holyrood include disability living allowance, personal independence payments, carer’s allowance and winter fuel payments. MSPs will also have the ability to create new benefits.
Ms Freeman claimed there is an “incoherence” in some of the powers being transferred to the parliament and confirmed the Scottish Government could continue to seek further control over welfare wherever it “makes sense”.
“For example, we have the benefits that provide support for disabled people but we don’t have employment support allowance, which is also for disabled people,” she said.
“We are looking at where we think there are gaps where it would make sense to increase the powers we have – and we will have that discussion with the UK Government.”