Westminster scuppers Scottish police pension deal

Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Share this article
Have your say

A DEAL between police and the Scottish Government, which would have allowed officers to continue to retire after 30 years’ service, was torpedoed by HM Treasury, The Scotsman has learned.

The government now plans to use that as part of its campaign to convince public sector workers they are better off in an independent Scotland.

Talks between police representatives and government officials have been taking place for months. A deal where the Scottish Government would commit a sum in the “low seven figures” to top up the police pension pot annually, while officers made larger contributions in return for being able to draw a pension after 30 years, was on the table.

However, HM Treasury told Holyrood that whatever additional money it put into the police pensions pot, a comparative sum would have to go to the Westminster department to cover its liability as lender of last resort. That effectively doubled the cost to the Scottish Government, and killed the deal.

Police sources believe the government was sincere in its efforts to help police, and now ministers appear ready to cash in on that goodwill. Over the next few days, the government will seek to communicate with public sector workers across Scotland, contrasting the UK and Scottish Government’s approach to pensions, as part of its independence campaign.

Ministers announced an improved deal for firefighters yesterday, giving them the option of retiring at 55, which averted strike action in Scotland.

That could lead to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in England and Wales taking industrial action while their colleagues in Scotland do not.

Ministers were also close to agreeing a deal with police, who face contributing more and working longer under Westminster public-sector pension reform.

A source said: “There were lots of really enthusiastic discussions where we were very close to having something significantly different in Scotland, but the Treasury clawback prevented it from happening.”

The Scottish Police Federation is politically neutral and will not be taking a position on independence, but The Scotsman understands that members are increasingly mindful of the impact independence would have on them, and the federation is furious that the Treasury blocked their deal with the Scottish Government.

Calum Steele, general secretary of the SPF, said: “The Scottish Police Federation is exceptionally disappointed that the preconditions imposed and punitive costs associated with any alternative approach rendered any deal for Scotland’s police officers beyond our reach.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government has made clear its opposition to the UK government’s handling of public sector pension reforms.

“Last month the Scottish Government published Pensions in an Independent Scotland. This document makes clear that following a vote for independence any future Scottish Government would be able to consider again the pension terms of all uniformed services.”

However, a Treasury spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has devolved responsibility for the police pension scheme. They have significant flexibility in their discussions.”