A HOLYROOD committee has urged ministers to halt controversial plans to shake-up Scotland's care services, warning the vague legislation could set a “dangerous precedent”.

In a majority report opposed by the SNP, the Labour and Tory members of the delegated powers committee warned the National Care Service Bill could "undermine" parliament.

The report said the Bill should not progress in its current form because of the “insufficient detail” on its face, warning it would prevent proper parliamentary scrutiny.

It also criticised plans by ministers to use delegated powers instead of primary legislation to introduce “core and as yet unknown provisions”.

That meant there was “a real risk of letting down those the Bill is intended to help”.

It said: “The Committee believes the current approach significantly reduces the threshold for parliamentary approval and prevents MSPs from bringing forward detailed amendments. 

“The Committee believes this is unacceptable and risks setting a dangerous precedent, undermining the role of the parliament.

“In this context, the Committee is unable meaningfully to report on the provisions and delegated powers of the Bill as it stands. 

“The Committee therefore recommends that the Scottish Government revisit its approach to this legislation and strongly refutes the suggestion that full parliamentary scrutiny presents a barrier to collaborative working.”

The Bill to set up a National Care Service (NCS) has proved hugely controversial at Holyrood, with many SNP MSPs criticising its vague plans and finances.

READ MORE: MSPs voice concern over ‘uncertainty’ around powers of National Care Service

The NCS is intended to create consistent care standards Scotland-wide, ending an alleged “postcode lottery”, and improve and harmonise pay for staff.

Nicola Sturgeon has said it will be the biggest public sector reform since the NHS in 1948.

However Audit Scotland has warned the Bill’s financial memorandum “significantly understates” the set-up cost at up to £1.3billlion because it uses outdated inflation figures. 

The project has also been criticised by councils as a power grab, while a senior SNP MSP has said it is a “sledgehammer to crack a nut”, arguing the few substandard care homes can be brought up to scratch without creating an entirely new system of care.

Earlier this week, social care minister Kevin Stewart was accused of putting his "fingers in his ears" and ignoring the wave of criticism.

READ MORE: Minister urged to 'throw in the towel' over National Care Service

The Unite union, which represents 10,000 social care staff, also announced it was boycotting the plan, branding it "not fit for purpose".

Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour, a member of the committee, said: “This report ought to be the final nail in the coffin of the SNP’s National Care Service.

“The committee believes the bill to set up the NCS should not go forward in its current form because it is lacking in detail, hands too much power to SNP ministers and risks letting down those it’s designed to help.

“I hope this is the moment when the penny finally drops for Nicola Sturgeon and she ditches this reckless and unaffordable crusade to centralise the delivery of social care.

“Ours is just the latest parliamentary committee to pinpoint flaws in the bill, while seemingly every stakeholder – from care home owners and trade unions, to COSLA and charities – is opposed to it.

“Even some SNP MSPs can see the monumental folly of splurging an estimated £1.3billion on an unwanted new body, when that money would be better served going to local councils who are far better equipped to respond to the social care needs in their areas.”

Scottish Labour Social Care spokesperson Paul O’Kane added: "This damning report lays bare the fatal flaws at the heart of the SNP's botched national care service bill.

“The government said that the fate of this bill was for parliament to judge. With this now the third committee to caution against the bill it is clear that parliament has spoken - the bill must be paused.

"Experts are clear, workers are clear and care users are clear - this bill will do nothing to help protect and enhance care in Scotland.

"Instead of using the opportunity to build a care service that works for all, the SNP has pressed on with a plan which would not benefit care users or the workforce.

"It's time for the government to put the breaks on this costly and ineffective bill and redivert the funds towards bolstering our NHS and care system now."

READ MORE: Warning over cost of £1.3 billion national care service issued

In their minority statement, the two SNP MSPs on the five-member delegated powers committee, Bill Kidd and Jenni Minto, said: “We note that the concept of co-design is a new approach and the reasons that the Scottish Government has set out to justify its use in this instance.

"We are content with the general approach taken in respect of this Bill and are therefore content with the delegation of the powers in principle.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We welcome the scrutiny of each committee, as the Parliament has an important role in strengthening the legislation that we bring forward. We note that the conclusions reported by the DPLR committee were not a unanimous view of its members.

“We’ve heard repeatedly from people with direct experience that the system needs to change to address standards and consistency across Scotland.

“The NCS Bill will enable the changes we want to make and gives Scottish Ministers powers to work through the detail with people who access support and those who provide it, including unpaid carers.”