SCOTTISH Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has called for Holyrood to have "major" new powers over the welfare system and benefits, giving a strong pointer to the forthcoming plans of the Smith Commission.

Rennie used his party's autumn conference in Dunfermline to go much further than ever before on greater devolution.

Until now, the LibDems have said the welfare system should be harmonised across the UK.

In October 2012, a party commission headed by former leader Sir Menzies Campbell endorsed "the retention of a single United Kingdom welfare and pensions system" - a stance Rennie also backed.

However, in his speech yesterday, Rennie said he had changed his position and asked his negotiating team at the Smith Commission to "explore the transfer of a major package of welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament".

Rennie's advertisement of the negotiating shift suggested it had already met with success.

He told delegates: "The Campbell Commission clearly set out that the benefits system should be something we share across the United Kingdom in its entirety. I have reviewed that position in light of the referendum."

He said the shift would be consistent with liberal values, reflect recent debate, and, if successful, would be "good for Scotland".

He added: "With goodwill and effort we will have an agreement next week that we can all be proud of, that meets the expectations and the spirit of the referendum and which can shape Scotland for the better."

The Smith Commission is due to report on Thursday its "heads of agreement" between Labour, LibDem, Tories, SNP and Greens.

According to the timetable laid down in the Unionist "vow" before the referendum, this agreement should be translated into draft legislation in the New Year, with the new powers put into law following the General Election.

Rennie also called on Nicola Sturgeon to put the treatment of mental and physical health on an equal legal footing through new legislation. The UK Coalition Government has written into law that, for the first time ever, mental health and physical health deserve equal recognition.