Nicola Sturgeon repeats claims pensions will be paid for by UK in independent Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon has repeated claims made by her party’s Westminster leader that pension obligations in Scotland will be met by the UK Government should the country become independent.

Her comments came after Ian Blackford said Scots workers would have the right to a UK state pension after years of paying National Insurance contributions.

Opposition politicians disputed the claim, saying pensions were paid with current state revenue and claiming otherwise was “blatantly inaccurate”.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was asked how pensions would be paid for in the event of Scotland becoming independent.
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During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon was asked whether it was now SNP policy that pensions in an independent Scotland would be paid by taxpayers in England.

The First Minister claimed there was no difference in this position to the White Paper in 2014, stating “people with accumulated rights” would “continue to receive the current levels of state pension”.

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She said the “existing UK liabilities and assets” would be “subject to negotiation”, with an independent Scotland set to ‘pay its way’.

The SNP leader said: "When Scotland votes for independence, as was the case in 2014, the distribution of existing UK liabilities and assets, including those related to pensions, will be subject to negotiation and Scotland will fully pay its way in that.

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"But the key point here is for those in receipt of pensions and it is what the minister for pensions at the time in the UK Government, Steve Webb, confirmed, that people with accumulated rights would continue to receive the current levels of state pension in an independent Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon added: "People will notice no difference. Perhaps the difference they might notice is that an independent Scotland may be able to improve the level of pensions rather than have, as the UK does, one of the lowest pension levels in the whole of the developed world.”

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A spokesperson for the First Minister later repeated the claim, stating "historic contributions” would help an independent Scotland pay for pensions.

He said: "Pensions in an independent Scotland will be paid by the government of an independent Scotland.

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"But the contributions towards that, the cost of meeting that, will partly be met by historic contributions made by people paying into the UK pensions pot, pre-independence.

"Pensions will be delivered in an independent Scotland by the government of an independent Scotland, but there will be historic contributions made into the UK pot that are owed from that UK side as part of what's paid out."

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Mr Blackford had previously told ITV Border the payment of National Insurance Contributions meant individuals had a “right to receive” a future pension and the UK had an “obligation” to pay for them.

He said: “You are paying NI as an entitlement to a future pension, that is the whole point of the principle.

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"You pay into a NI fund, OK the UK is then responsible for the disbursements of that and it covers cash flow from a certain period, but that is a right to a UK pension. There is no ifs and there’s no buts about that.”

Paul Sweeney, the Labour MSP, labelled this “sophistry” that would “make the Vote Leave campaign blush”.

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Donald Cameron, the Scottish Conservative spokesperson on the constitution, said it was “astonishing and blatantly inaccurate” to suggest pension rights would be unaffected by an independent Scotland, accusing the SNP of spreading “misinformation”.

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