IN THE current financial climate, it is understandable that politicians of all sides have been calling for decisive action to tackle the cost of living crisis.

In the case of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, it would be wise to ensure they are using their own powers to the fullest before targeting their criticism elsewhere.

This is certainly the case when it comes to Scotland's devolved benefits.

Six years ago, the Scottish parliament received a significant number of new powers over social security, which included the power to create new benefits.

Back then, hopes were high for what this significant devolution of powers could mean for social security in Scotland. Such high hopes were only appropriate – it is right that decisions over many different benefits are taken here in Scotland, and this should have been the beginning of a tailored, distinctly Scottish approach to social security.

It is safe to say that this great potential has yet to be capitalised upon. Thus far, the story of the SNP's handling of these powers has been one of disappointment and delay.

Over recent years, progress on this issue has been so slow that the SNP government will not have finished taking control of these benefits until a whole decade after they first received these powers – and this is despite once claiming they would be able to set up an independent country in less than two years.

There have also been numerous problems with the organisation set up to administer these powers – Social Security Scotland.

In total, creating this organisation has cost Scottish taxpayers over £650million, which is more than twice what was originally promised five years ago.

Despite this increased cost, the SNP has admitted that their organisation will be no cheaper to run than the DWP it is designed to replace.

On top of this, last month it was revealed that Social Security Scotland received 400 complaints in the last year – an increase of 74 per cent compared to the previous year.

Such figures should serve as a wake-up call for the Scottish Government, who clearly have more work to do to provide the Scottish public with the service they deserve.

Whilst there have been some positive decisions taken in this area, such as the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment, even this has been hit with problems that have led to it being rolled out at a snail's pace.

These extensive benefit powers have been in the SNP's hands for years now, and the time for excuses has long since passed.

With the cost of living crisis set to continue, it has never been more important to ensure families receive the support they need.

The UK Government is already playing its part, with nearly £40billion of additional support already delivered.

Now it is time for the Scottish Government to hold up their end of the bargain, deliver on the full potential of their powers, and give the Scottish public the social security system they rightfully expect.