The welfare system could become key to the Scotand's independence referendum, Scottish Poverty Alliance director Peter Kelly told the STUC in Dumfries on Saturday.
"Issues of poverty and redistribution are at the heart of this debate," he told attendees at the A Just Scotland event.
"All of those campaigning in the 2014 referendum should be able to state how they would use whatever powers are available to improve the lives of those who are currently affected by poverty and social exclusion."
Labour MSP Elaine Murray said "devolution should go further" but stressed that her party was still drawing up plans.
STUC deputy general secretary Dave Moxham said: "We need both main parties to put more detail on their plans for fair tax, labour market regulation and controls on financial institutions."