Scottish independence: SNP fudge over pension plan

THE SNP last night sidestepped the debate on George Osborne’s pension revolution by refusing to say whether they would back plans to 
allow pensioners to cash in their retirement funds.

First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Jane Barlow

With Labour indicating that it supports the plans in principle, the SNP shied away from saying if it was in favour of the Chancellor’s radical plans.

The SNP said an independent Scotland would inherit Osborne’s plans but added that it would be up to future Scottish governments to decide whether to continue with the pension arrangements unveiled in the Chancellor’s Budget last week.

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An SNP spokesman said: “The pension rules Scotland inherits at the point of independence in 2016 will apply – with these new arrangements coming into place in April next year – and that will continue to be the case unless future governments decide otherwise.

“A big issue for many pensioners in Scotland is that under Westminster’s management of the system they don’t have enough in their pension pot in the first place. And the acceleration of state pension age with no regard for Scottish circumstances is another key issue that we can address with the powers of an independent Scotland.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves suggested that she backed the plans but added she wanted to see “a lot more detail” about the changes.

The comments came after the Opposition was criticised for a muddled response to the Budget proposals.

Ed Miliband did not address the plans directly in the House, and senior figures such as former frontbencher Tom Watson have raised concerns about people blowing their retirement pots.

Speaking on the BBC, Reeves said she did not believe the pensions and annuities markets were working well.

“I support reform and I support what has been announced this week, although we need to see a lot more detail about what that will mean in practice,” she said. “But I think we need wider reform.”

Confirming that Labour would not seek to reverse the changes, Reeves added: “I think the majority of people will not just draw down all their money.

“I think the majority of people will want to ensure that what they have saved will last them. Many people will still want to buy that annuity to get some security.”

Miliband said yesterday that Labour was “in favour of greater flexibility when it comes to pensions”.

“There are certain questions that now need to be answered by this government about the fairness of these proposals,” 
he said. “Is it going to help all lower and middle-income taxpayers as well as those at the top of society? Is it going to ensure that those who want to buy an annuity can do so?”