There has been a growing debate about how the benefits system (that is, the system of state benefits, pensions and tax credits) may be affected if Scotland becomes independent. This debate takes place at a time when the benefits system that Scotland currently shares with the rest of the UK is going through some major changes – such as the replacement of most means-tested benefits for working-age recipients by the new universal credit – and facing substantial cuts as part of the fiscal consolidation. The Scottish government has said it plans to reverse at least some of the cuts if Scotland were to become independent. It also plans to consult upon the principles and policies an independent Scotland should follow, which may result in broader changes to the benefits system. This briefing note aims to describe the patterns of benefit expenditure in Scotland and set out a number of issues for the future.