Scottish independence: Pensions and the referendum debate

Elderly person How an independent Scotland would fund pensions for an ageing population has come into sharp focus during the referendum debate

How to fund an increasingly ageing population is a 21st Century problem that weighs heavily on the minds of governments across the world.

And it certainly matters in Scotland - the issue of pensions has consistently registered as one of the key issues in the independence debate.

A recent BBC poll found that pensions came second in a list of the 10 things that mattered most to voters - only the economy was deemed more important.

The Think Tank Reform Scotland raised the issue again in a report criticising Westminster for failing to make clear how "uncertain, unfunded and unsustainable" the current system is.

The Scottish government has said pensions would be "fully protected" in an independent Scotland, but bodies including the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) and the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) have warned that more clarity is needed.

Here, we look at some of the key points in the pensions debate.

The current set-up
Pension tag Under UK government plans, the pension age will be raised to 66 by 2020, then to 67 between 2026 and 2028

At the moment, state pensions are managed by the UK government, which pays £110.15 a week for a single person and £176.15 a week for a couple. The pension age is currently 65 for men, while women are in the process of being raised to that entitlement age.

Once that equalisation process finishes in 2018, the pension age will be swiftly raised to 66 over the next two years, rising yet again to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

In his autumn statement, Chancellor George Osborne announced the pension age would go up to 68 sometime in the mid-2030s, about 10 years earlier than originally planned.

Currently, some public sector pension schemes (such as those on offer to nurses, teachers, police, civil servants and members of the armed forces) are administered by the UK government, while others are managed by the Scottish government.

A recent study of Scotland's demography by the University of Ottawa suggested the number of working age people in Scotland will grow at a slower rate than in the rest of the UK, partly due to lower rates of immigration.

Researchers said this will put an extra burden of taxation on workers, amounting to about 1.4% of national income by 2035.

However, the authors also pointed out that this burden is a smaller factor than the overall pressures from demographic change affecting the whole of the UK and other countries.

Pensions post 'Yes'
Pounds The Scottish government proposes setting up a new pensions regulator in an independent Scotland

The Scottish government has laid out its plans for the state pension in the event of a "Yes" vote in its White Paper for Independence and a separate pensions analysis paper.

It proposes a new single tier state pension, to be paid at a similar rate to the UK pension, that would be protected by the "triple lock" - whichever is higher from earnings growth, inflation or 2.5%.

The paper also says all rights and entitlements to public service pensions will continue to be protected after independence, and that there would be no difference to individual contribution rates.

According to research by the National Institute of Economic and Social research, an independent Scotland could delay the rise in the state pension age by 12 years, as Scots, on average, have a lower life expectancy than other parts of the UK.

That mortality gap is closing, however. It is projected to remain for those currently aged between 30 and 60, but life expectancy is expected to be closer to UK levels for those in Scotland now under 30.

And such a delay could cost the Scottish government about £750m a year, according to the institute.

Meanwhile, a new Scottish Pensions Regulator would support a pan-UK approach to the regulation of private pensions, according to the Scottish government, while its preference would be to maintain the current UK-wide Pension Protection Fund, though there would be an option to establish a Scottish version of the fund.

What the campaigns say
People in Buchanan St, Glasgow Life expectancy in Scotland is expected to rise in the coming years, while the number of working age people will grow at a slower rate than in the rest of the UK

Finance Secretary John Swinney has said pensions would be more affordable in an independent Scotland and would "continue to be paid in full, and on time, as now", while the pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign criticised successive Westminster governments for mismanaging pensions.

Nicola Sturgeon, in her introduction to the Scottish government's pensions paper, said independence offers "a genuine opportunity to deliver an affordable, fair and efficient pensions system".

However, former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown said a "Yes" vote would put pensions at risk and cost more, adding that people in Scotland currently get a higher contribution to their pension pot than people elsewhere in the UK.

Speaking on behalf of the pro-Union Better Together campaign, Labour's pension spokesman Greg McClymont said the UK systems worked well through the pooling of resources and the spreading of risk.

What the industry bodies say
Pensioners at the seaside Pensions body the NAPF has called on both the Scottish and Westminster governments to clarify their plans for pensions if Scotland becomes independent

Earlier this month, accountancy body ICAS published a report on pensions, which highlighted uncertainty over whether an independent Scotland or the rest of the UK would pay some state entitlements.

The report said there was no clear plan on how pensions would be managed if Scotland votes "Yes", and claimed employers with under-funded cross-border schemes could be faced with "substantial" costs or even closure due to EU rules.

In November, the NAPF called on both the Scottish and Westminster governments to clarify their plans for pensions if Scotland becomes independent.

In a report called Scottish independence: the implications for pensions, the association concluded that independence would have "substantial implications" for pensions and questioned how the proposed regulatory scheme would work.

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Scotland Live

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  2. 12:19: Your pictures - Get involved

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    11:52: Stranger danger Evening Express


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    11:45: Oil deal signed

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    vrAse headset

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    11:19: Oil prices - Your views

    Shirley: Putting heating oil in my tank cost me £100 less this week. Delighted!

    Euan, Glasgow: Despite the high house and rent prices in Aberdeen you would never think the city is home to such a prosperous industry. Workers don't spend their earnings in the city and rather spend on their quarterly Dubai holiday. Hopefully a less decadent industry will result in a better local economy.

    Jim, Glasgow: People should take care what they wish for with regards to the oil prices as many pension companies have very large amounts of people's money invested in them.

    John, Aberdeen: I work in the oil industry and yes, there is certainly an area of concern up here, but the oil is still in the ground and it still has to and will come out.

    11:10: Police annual report Reevel Alderson Home affairs correspondent, BBC Scotland

    The Scottish police service watchdog has said it is too early to say whether the intended benefits of creating a single force have been realised.

    The inspector of constabulary, Derek Penman, said although savings targets for the first year of the new force were achieved, financial challenges persist.

    Police pass out at Tulliallan

    In his annual report, he said genuine engagement with communities will help Police Scotland to be successful.

    He called on local authorities to assert themselves in expressing their concerns where national decisions impact on their areas.

    11:05: Monsters of the deep

    Researchers at Aberdeen University have taken pictures of the world's deepest-dwelling fish.


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    They were discovered during an international expedition led by Aberdeen University to the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

    10:56: Black Eye Friday

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    Empty bottles in a bin

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    Insp Stuart Wilson, from Dumfries and Galloway, told BBC Scotland: "We all know that today is one of the busiest days for people going out to enjoy the festive celebrations, and I think we all want to have an environment where people can do that safely and securely.

    "So we're not trying to be party poopers. It's about giving people some hints and tips that they may want to follow to keep themselves safe and enjoy themselves."

    10:47: We're on a road to snowhere

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    They are advising drivers to take care and drive to the road conditions.

    Snowy A9
    10:35: Pay up for the cup Chris McLaughlin BBC Sport

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    10:30: New NHS Grampian chairman

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    Prof Stephen Logan

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    10:23: Pheastive pheasants

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    Pheasants in the snow

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    10:10: On the roads BBC Scotland Travel Latest
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    • It is the same on the A9 at Dalwhinnie where one southbound lane is also blocked by a broken-down car transporter near Auchterarder
    • Police in Glenrothes have been in touch warning of black ice on main and side roads across Fife, especially in north east Fife, they say there have been about a dozen accidents so take care
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    Jamie Gilroy

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    09:58: Oil recovery starts here

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    09:53: Time to slope off

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    Nevis Range

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    She said: "People are always really keen at this time of year to get their skis on for the first time, so if we get a nicer day tomorrow we'll certainly be trying to get open.

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    09:46: Death driver avoids prison

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    Anna McCallum, 23, crashed into 79-year-old John Gordon Sangster on Baltic Street, Montrose, as he stepped out to cross the road in December 2012.

    McCallum, of Johnshaven, Aberdeenshire, admitted causing death by careless driving at Forfar Sheriff Court.

    A community payback order with 240 hours of unpaid work was imposed.

    Sheriff Gregor Murray also banned the first offender from driving for four years.

    09:39: Oil industry- government reaction

    The chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander has said the government is doing all it can to boost the industry.

    danny alexander

    Mr Alexander said: "It is very, very important to send a message out to investors around the world that the North Sea is open for business, that it's a great place to invest and that there are huge opportunities on the UK continental shelf still."

    09:32: Llambias takes lower salary

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    Rangers chief executive Derek Llambias

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    Englishman Llambias, 58, a former managing director of Newcastle United, joined Rangers' board as a non-executive director in November.

    The SFA announced last week that it was investigating Newcastle owner Mike Ashley's role at Ibrox.

    09:21: Victoria Cross tribute

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    James Mackenzie

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    Relatives will attend along with representatives of the British Legion and Scots Guards Association.

    Pte Mackenzie was the first of five servicemen from Dumfries and Galloway awarded the VC during World War One.

    09:13: Oil job losses

    Oil companies will shed around 5% of their workforce because of the price slump, Sir Ian Wood believes.

    Sir Ian Wood

    He said "I'm going say 5% to 10% but hopefully, as the oil price recovers and reinvestment emerges in what should be a better climate, we'll get these jobs back.

    "My view right now is that we will probably stay at $60, $65, $70 (a barrel) and at that stage it's probably about 5%."

    Text 80295 09:04: Now on Morning Call BBC Radio Scotland

    Kaye Adams asks: Is the oil crash good news or bad news for you and Scotland? And, with warnings over 'Black Eye Friday', do we need to be told how to behave at Christmas?

    Listen to the show live here and text us your views on 80295.

    08:55: Douglas Fraser Business and economy editor, Scotland

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    08:47: Minister in maternity leave first

    Scotland's children's minister has become the first member of the Holyrood government to take maternity leave.

    Children and Young People Minister Aileen Campbell

    Aileen Campbell, whose last day in the job was on Thursday, is being covered by fellow SNP MSP Fiona McLeod, until she returns.

    Ms Campbell, who is eight-and-a-half months pregnant, is expecting her second child.

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said supporting parental leave was vital to "shattering the glass ceiling".

    08:40: More Sir Ian Wood

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    He said: "If we play this correctly, the next 18 months will be tough but by that time we should begin to see some uplift in the oil price.

    "The industry should be leaner and a bit meaner and in better shape with the tax regime and new regulator to try and springboard a good recovery."

    08:35: All the gossip

    Celtic will reject any "insulting" offer they may receive from Crystal Palace for Kris Commons in the January transfer window.

    kris commons

    New Livingston manager Mark Burchill says he has enlisted the help of former Celtic bosses Martin O'Neill and Kenny Dalglish in his attempt to plot a win over Rangers in the Scottish Championship.

    Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has praised Shay Logan for the manner in which the defender conducted himself during the case against Celtic winger Aleksandar Tonev, who was accused of racially abusing the Englishman.

    It's another day of Scottish football gossip and you can read our full review here.

    08:30: Court video 'is a gimmick'

    There has been criticism of new proposals for victims and witnesses to pre-record video statements rather than give evidence in court.

    video camera

    Brian McConnachie QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme he was not convinced by the idea, which he described as "a bit of a gimmick".

    He said: "The suggestion is that, somehow or other, witnesses will not have to attend court. I don't see how that works because they will still require, if the evidence is controversial, to be cross-examined."

    08:24: Oil industry latest

    Sir Ian Wood has said it is very important to "keep a perspective" about the North Sea oil situation, although it is inevitable that jobs will be lost.

    He said: "It's going to be a tough time. There will be a slow-down in investment. It's probable there will be some loss of offshore production, perhaps up to 10% at $60 to $65 a barrel.

    "There will be sadly the loss of a number of jobs because in these circumstances oil companies and supply chains do everything they can to cut back on costs and get some kind of positive cash flow."

    08:21: Sir Ian Wood: It's over the top

    Oil industry expert Sir Ian Wood has said talk of a North Sea crisis is "well over the top and frankly far too dramatic"

    Sir Ian Wood

    Sir Ian told BBC Radio 5Live: "This is an industry that thinks and invests long term.

    "Investment decisions are made on the anticipated price of oil two to three years down the road.

    "And of course right now there's really significant momentum in the industry, a big investment programme in the last few years, some new fields coming on stream and also some fields recently given the go ahead which will go ahead."

    08:06: No appeal over spitting ban

    Dundee United will be unable to appeal against Paul Paton's two-match ban for spitting at Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes, the Scottish FA has confirmed.

    Dundee United's Paul Paton and Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes

    That is despite United having vowed to contest Thursday's decision by an independent judicial panel.

    It found the 27-year-old midfielder guilty despite wide-man Hayes having claimed his opponent was innocent.

    The SFA has confirmed there is no route of appeal in their fast-track judicial system for Paton.

    08:00: Pakistan massacre tribute

    Glasgow City Council will fly the flag of Pakistan at half-mast from the City Chambers today in a show of support following the Peshawar school massacre.

    Jahangir Hanif and school scene

    The attack by the Pakistani Taliban at the Army Public School on Tuesday killed 132 school children and nine staff and injured 125 others.

    Two grand-nephews of Glasgow Southside Central SNP councillor Jahangir Hanif were among the dead.

    The attack was to avenge Pakistan army-led operations against the Taliban.

    07:56: 'Work together'

    Experts are warning that tumbling oil prices have left the North Sea oil industry "close to collapse".

    James Bream, of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, says the oil industry and government need to work together.

    oil rig

    He told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We need to see continued leadership on cost. We also need to see some significant moves on taxation in the North Sea."

    07:46: Wrap up warm BBC Scotland Weather Latest

    There is a Met Office yellow "be aware" warning for snow showers and ice affecting the Highlands and Grampian as well as highland Perthshire. Expect some difficult driving conditions on the high road routes.

    It will be a cold, windy day with plenty of blustery showers, most frequent across northern and western Scotland.

    The showers will fall as snow over high ground and to lower levels in some areas. They also bring a risk of thunder, especially across the far north.

    Fewer showers and more sunshine across the Borders, Angus and eastern Aberdeenshire and there is widespread ice risk north of the Central Belt.

    It will feel bitterly cold in the strong westerly wind, with gales along western and northern coasts touching severe gale force at times.

    07:40: North Sea 'crisis'

    Labour's energy spokesman Lewis Macdonald has said he believes there is a crisis in the oil and gas industry.

    Mr Macdonald told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We are facing a critical situation. There are perhaps 1,000 jobs already gone, there are thousands more jobs on the line.

    "Yes, this is a crisis for the industry. It's not a crisis that can be controlled directly by government on its own. Clearly some of this is a consequence of global oil prices and global market shifts.

    "The responsibility of government is to respond urgently, address the issues that are raised and give some sense of confidence to people who are working in the oil and gas industry."

    07:35: Rangers name Llambias as chief executive BBC Sport Scotland

    Rangers have confirmed to the Stock Exchange the appointment of existing board member Derek Llambias as their new chief executive.

    Derek Llambias arrives at Ibrox for talks
    07:31: On the ferries BBC Scotland Travel Latest

    Quite a bit of disruption on the ferries today. Best advice is to check ahead before you travel.

    • On Cal Mac's Barra and South Uist service, the 07:40 Barra sailing and the 14:30 out of Oban to the islands are cancelled
    • No sailings to Colonsay
    • Skye, that's Armadale to Mallaig off as well
    • No sailings to the Small Isles from Mallaig
    • The morning sailings to Islay are off
    • Today's Arran sailings are under review and quite a few are on amber alert
    • Orkney ferries has cancelled today's North Ronaldsay sailing, its rescheduled for tomorrow leaving Kirkwall at 09;00
    • On Northlink there is some disruption between Aberdeen and Lerwick, the 17:00 sailing from Aberdeen will sail directly to Kirkwall, but may face delays
    • The 19:00 sailing from Aberdeen to Lerwick is under review and the 17:30 from Lerwick is cancelled
    • And there is possible disruption on Argyll ferries between Gourock and Dunoon
    07:27: Oil industry crunch

    Experts are suggesting that the oil industry will cope better with the current downturn than expected.

    Total's north sea oil rig

    It comes as some oil and gas companies are cutting staff and investment due to low oil prices and a warning from a senior industry expert that some North Sea projects would not be viable if prices fell below $60 a barrel.

    Prof Gordon Hughes, a former energy adviser at the World Bank, said that the industry is used to dealing with an unpredictable market.

    He said: "The oil price is notoriously volatile, its gone up and down for the past 50 years.

    "We are going through a bad part of the down cycle but most companies have enough money and enough sense to realise that they have to look at the medium or longer term rather than simply where the price is at today."

    07:18: Court on camera

    Victims and witnesses could pre-record video statements rather than giving evidence in court under radical new proposals being considered by the Scottish Court Service (SCS).


    The BBC understands the concept is being actively explored by the judiciary and the SCS.

    The aim is to avoid wasting witnesses' time and speed up trials.

    Legal experts have raised concerns and warned it should not be a substitute for cross-examining witnesses in court.

    07:11: What the papers say

    The Scotsman leads with the Scotland Yard investigation into an alleged paedophile ring involving high profile people and its link to three murders.

    The National says a Westminster civil servant is facing a "referendum 'bias' probe".

    And The Daily Record has the story of a young woman who lost her unborn baby after her partner punched her.


    See the rest of today's front pages here.

    07:05: House prices on the up

    House prices in Scotland will increase by 4% next year, a new report predicts.

    house for sale

    Recent changes to stamp duty legislation are expected to boost the market, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) 2015 housing forecast.

    The report says demand for property continuing to outstrip supply is another reason to expect prices to go up.

    It also predicts a 2.1% increase in rents north of the border.

    07:00: Paul McLaren BBC Scotland News

    Good morning and welcome to Friday's Scotland Live, where we will bring you all the latest news, sport, travel and weather between now and 19:00.



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