Readers’ Letters: We need clarity on pensions in solo Scotland

Cabinet Secretary for Finance Kate Forbes should be at the heart of SNP policy on state pensions in an independent Scotland. (Photo by Robert Perry/Getty Images)

If there is a Yes vote in a future referendum, it will not mean autonomy the following Monday. The details will have to be hammered out in a complex set of negotiations and the passage of legislation.

At the heart of all this would be the share of the United Kingdom national debt an independent Scotland would have to accept; what its size would be, how it would be serviced, what levels of public expenditure would make the new state credible in international markets.

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The level of pensions and social security benefits would be important here. It is quite possible that these negotiations might result in a scheme to keep pension levels the same as the rest of the United Kingdom.

But it is equally possible that the link might be severed.

The fact that someone had paid National Insurance contributions might be an important factor to be taken into account. It is only one of many. A newly elected government in an independent state would have to make hard decisions on the matter. It would be absurd to claim independence on the one hand and argue for dependency on the UK Treasury on the other.

Incidentally much has been made by people like SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford of the fact that UK nationals living abroad can claim state pensions.

This is true but it does not mean they get the annual increase, however it is determined. It all depends on which country someone retires to!

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

The Nationalist opinion that the UK will continue to pay a foreign country’s pensions (apparently indefinitely) appears somewhat unlikely, to say the least, but we live in a strange world, so who knows.

However, I would suggest that a possible reason for the SNP and their supporters putting this forward is to try to reassure older voters that they have nothing to fear pension-wise regarding independence. Their approach would appear to be along the lines of “don’t worry about how the Scottish Government is going to afford to pay your state pension after independence as they won’t have to, the English, Northern Irish and Welsh taxpayers will happily continue to foot the bill”.

Older voters have historically been less enthusiastic about separation, and this may be just a very cynical, and basically dishonest, ploy to try to persuade them otherwise.

Gill Turner (Letters, 9 February) can claim a UK state pension in a putative separate Scotland if she likes it, but it takes two to tango. What makes her think the UK would comply?

The UK Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman, said a few days ago: “If Scotland chooses to become a foreign country, then working English, Welsh and Northern Irish taxpayers should not pay for a foreign country’s pension liabilities. That has been the settled position of the UK Government since before the 2014 referendum.”

It is puzzling that Scottish nationalists, who have been telling us for decades that Scotland would be better off outside the UK, feel the need to depend on another country for their pensions.

It brings into question their entire conception of “independence”. It is the independence of the teenager who flounces out of the family home yet brings his dirty laundry home for mum to wash and expects to borrow her car when he feels like it.

The SNP thus tacitly admits that there are things about the UK that it likes and wishes to retain in their separate Scotland. To which the answer is: it doesn’t say.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

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

You need to have paid 35 years of contributions to get the full UK pension of £179.60 a week. You have no entitlement until you have paid for 10 years.

This means at the date of independence most people under 30 would have no entitlement to a UK pension and under-40s who’d paid in for 20 years would have ten years’ entitlement, around £50 per week.

The Scottish Government has committed to honoring current UK entitlements, so my advice to their target younger voters is… be careful what you wish for, whichever government will actually be paying for it.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Every day or so we see the same names from different sides of the independence debate pop up on the letters page.

While interesting to read, it also highlights an issue which affects politics everywhere, not just in Scotland; many on either side of the debate refuse to look at it from the other point of view or meet in the middle. No party or individual has all the answers and sometimes compromise is needed.

But since I doubt that will be recognized I’ll grab popcorn and watch the daily SNP bad/UK Government bad debate.

Grant Scobie, Milnathort, Perthshire

I suggest every MSP make a personal plea to our First Minister to wear her heart on her sleeve and donate a figure to match what Doddie Weir has raised for research into MND. Doddie is a talisman displaying unbelievable courage and tenacity in the face of incredible adversity . He is an amazing example to all of us of how to never give up but to fight, not just for himself, but for all fellow sufferers of this hideous disease. Doddie is so upbeat and keeps smiling, while his mantra gives hope and a better quality of life to his fellowers.There surely cannot be any doubt as to what goes through the minds of Motor Neuron Disease sufferers as they see suffer vaccines being rolled out to help overcome Covid: “Why is more not being done for us with greater speed and urgency but it will no doubt boil down to the fact we are in the fraction of a minority category. There should be no discrimination, we are all equal.”At least the huge majority of Covid patients have a chance of a good recovery. Not so with MND sufferers as there is no way back at all. You have a better chance with cancer or any other serious disease. Doddie has been knighted in recognition of his incredible work for MND and Westminster have at long last been persuaded to throw £50 million into the research pot.

If the Scottish Government can find £9m for baby boxes and £5m for sanitary products then surely £5-7m can be found as a token of respect and goodwill for what Doddie Weir has achieved.

Christadelphian Ecclesia, an extreme Christian sect in East Kilbride, has been spreading anti-gay and dangerous anti-vax conspiracy messages on social media.

The problem is that the group is entitled to tax exemption because, under current legislation, it qualifies as a registered charity due to its “advancement of religion”.

Memes depicting Covid vaccines as “holy cows”, armor-clad knights defending against “poison medicine” and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with the words “teach kids (proper) LGBT history” will surprise no one, but they should not be subsidized by the tax payer.

Neil Barber, Edinburgh Secular Society

When in charge of my companies I made decisions but also tried to delegate responsibilities; inevitably, when mistakes occurred, guess who took the flak. You got it. So how on earth is it different for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)?

I’m talking about Sir Keir Starmer, of course. He was in charge when the CPS decided not to prosecute Sir Jimmy Savile, which was clearly the wrong decision, so why is it wrong to remind everyone that the leader of the Labor Party, Starmer, made a serious error of judgment and should be embarrassed about it? His allies claim he was not intimately involved in that decision, to which I would say; firstly, he was ultimately responsible and secondly, it was not a small beer issue, Savile was someone who rubbed shoulders with the rich, the famous and royalty, don’t tell me Starmer didn’t know what was going on with such a high profilecase. If anyone should apologize it is Sir Keir Starmer, again.

Stan Hogarth, Strathaven, South Lanarkshire

What an interesting rhetorical question Martin McLaughlin asked in his article, “Should our public bodies be hanging on to shares in Facebook?” (Perspective, February 9). The answer is, “Emphatically not!”

He notes that “Spotify and other titans of big tech have been lambasted for their reluctance to crackdown on misinformation on their platforms”. The results of their mischievous influence is evident in several articles in yesterday’s edition.

I am glad that Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has had the courage to have asked Kwasi Kwarteng to fast track licenses for six new oil and gas sites in the North Sea and he will have done so knowing that he will be hounded for introducing this common sense solution to the present energy crisis.

Nicola Sturgeon, The Scottish Greens, Extinction Rebellion, etc would rather see ordinary families either freeze in their homes or take out loans to pay for heating thereby enriching even further banks and other loan providers.

We welcome your thoughts. Write to [email protected] including name, address and phone number – we won’t print full details. Keep letters under 300 words, with no attachments, and avoid ‘Letters to the Editor/Readers’ Letters’ or similar in your subject line. If referring to an article, include date, page number and heading.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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