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Independence (Pensions)

Volume 567: debated on Wednesday 11 September 2013

The “Scotland analysis: Financial services and banking” paper considered private sector pensions. We will be examining state and public pensions in later papers in the series.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland highlighted that, on independence, cross-border defined benefit pension schemes would have to be fully funded, which would leave a deficit of some £230 billion. That was dismissed by the First Minister, who said that he would merely call for a derogation from the EU. Given that the Czech Republic has not only been refused that, but has been fined, what does the Minister think will happen to Scottish pension arrangements now and in the future?

Spending on state pensions and public sector pensions is driven by demographics and is set to rise. The UK Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions absorb the risk of growth in demand and there would be more volatility in spending in an independent Scotland. Those are not my words, but the words of John Swinney. It is a pity that he said them in private, not in public.

10. Does the Minister agree that the ability of the Scottish economy to support the pensions that the people of Scotland depend on will be greater and better if Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom? (900192)

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, not least because the Scottish Government and the Scottish National party have set out no coherent plans for a sustainable pensions system in an independent Scotland.

The Minister must think that people in Scotland are buttoned up the back. He knows as well as I do that in terms of both revenue and GDP, Scotland spends a lower percentage of its money on pensions than other parts of the UK. Does he accept that the lower life expectancy in Scotland and other demographic trends make it important that decisions on pensions are made in Scotland by Scotland for Scotland?

I know that the people of Scotland are not buttoned up the back. They understand that the Scottish Government and the SNP say one thing in private and another thing in public. In private, John Swinney has made it absolutely clear that the affordability of pensions would be a serious issue in an independent Scotland. That is a fact. [Interruption.]

Order. Far too many noisy private conversations are taking place in the Chamber. I am sure that they will now end so that we can hear Mary Macleod.