Scottish Independence: Call for pensions clarity

Winter fuel allowance is one of the areas where campaigners are seeking clarification. Picture: Getty
Winter fuel allowance is one of the areas where campaigners are seeking clarification. Picture: Getty
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Campaigners are calling for further clarity on pensions in the run-up to the independence referendum.

The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) wants details of policies, particularly on entitlement and cross-border schemes, before the ballot in September next year.

Other concerns include how the state pension would be up-rated every year, what protection there would be for Scottish pensioners if their schemes were to close and whether universal pensioner benefits such as the winter fuel allowance would continue.

The call comes two days after a Scottish Government-commissioned report set out proposals to maintain the existing benefits system for a transitional period.

The UK Government set out a detailed paper on finances, including pensions, last month.

NPC general secretary Dot Gibson said both sides have to “tell the truth” about how pensions may be affected.

Questions

“It would be completely wrong to keep this information back until after the vote had been taken,” she said.

“Scottish pensioners have a right to know what sort of state pension they are going to get, how much it will be, whether or not it will go up each year, whether their occupational pensions are safe and if they are going to keep their winter fuel allowance and free bus pass.

“Clear answers to these very straightforward questions will then allow older people to make up their minds.”

In April, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland said that changes to pension rules with independence could force “substantial” costs on employers with unfunded schemes.

European directives mean UK-wide schemes would be deemed “cross-border” and require to be fully funded, the group argued.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Pensions will be fully protected in an independent Scotland.

“Furthermore, independence will give the opportunity to ensure that future changes to the provision and regulation of pensions of Scots are made by a parliament which is fully accountable to the people of Scotland.

Proposals

“As yesterday’s expert working group report made clear, Scotland already has the people and infrastructure to ensure a seamless transition for state pensions following a vote for independence.

“The Scottish Government will shortly issue detailed proposals setting out how pensions will operate following independence.”

A spokesman for Better Together, the campaign to keep Scotland in the UK, said: “Scottish pensioners deserve honest answers about the impact of separation on their pensions.

“Scots who have worked hard all their working lives now find their pensions at risk, as (Finance Secretary) John Swinney’s leaked paper and the SNP’s own expert panel admit.

“The only way to guarantee that we continue to pool our pension resources is to keep the UK.”