‘Start negotiations on Scottish pensions now’

The assistant director of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland was speaking last week after the Scottish government released a 135-page report on pensions in an independent Scotland.

She said discussions should begin now between all parties to plan transitional arrangements for Scottish pension schemes.

Pension schemes operating between Scotland and the remainder of the UK would be classed as cross-border under European Union law if Scotland voted for independence in a referendum next year.

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Current EU solvency requirements would have major cost and cash-flow implications for employers with cross-border defined benefit and hybrid schemes. Pension liabilities would have to be fully funded at all times, and underfunded schemes would have to be rectified immediately.

Ms Scott said: “Employers and pension scheme trustees need information and time to make contingency plans for how any transitional arrangements which may be put in place will affect their schemes.

“Any solution to the potential cross-border underfunding issue will likely need the agreement of every EU member state.”

Retirement age

The Scottish government’s paper also suggested that the state pension would begin at the age of 66 if Scotland were to leave the UK, rather than the eventual age of 67 for the UK government’s proposed single state pension.

The Scottish government has promised to establish a commission to consider the appropriate pace of further change to the retirement age.

Nicola Sturgeon, deputy first minister of Scotland, said: “We want to make sure that the pension age suits Scottish circumstances. Westminster changes fail to take into account the life expectancy differences between the Scotland and the UK average.”

Adviser View

William Hunter, director of Edinburgh-based Hunter Wealth Management, said: “I suppose they should have a contingency, but I really don’t think independence will happen.

“The nationalists are trying to buy votes with uncosted promises. The money spent on keeping the retirement age at 66 would be better spent on schools and the health service.”