Pension reforms imposed

The UK Government is set to change the long term pensions arrangements of half a million Scots without consulting the Scottish Government.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has confirmed that the UK Government intends to legislate for an automatic link between normal pension age and state pension age, and also set the normal pension age for police officers and firefighters at 60.

The move cuts across negotiations already happening in Scotland between Scottish Ministers and employer groups and trades unions on police, fire, local government, NHS and teachers pensions schemes.

UK Ministers had previously said that the only restriction to be placed on the Scottish Government’s ability to negotiate the terms of its own deals on pensions would be that any shortfall in revenue would be met from the block grant.

Finance Secretary John Swinney has written to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury seeking clarity on the UK Government’s plans. Mr Swinney said:

“Public sector pensions must be affordable, sustainable and fair and, in partnership with trade unions and employer representatives, we are already discussing the long-term reform of public sector pensions in Scotland.

“Previous statements by UK Ministers made it clear that the Scottish Government was free to design schemes which suit Scotland’s needs and we have entered into negotiations on that basis in good faith.

“So it is astounding the UK Government is now seeking to place legislative restrictions on our freedom to negotiate with our own workforce.

“This damages our ability to ensure a fair and equitable agreement taking into account all views and reflecting Scottish circumstances.

“There has been no prior indication of the UK Government’s plans to do this and I am sure this news will surprise employees and trade unions as much as it did the Scottish Government.

“Scottish public sector workers deserve certainty about their future pension terms. Not content with threatening budget cuts if we choose to treat workers differently, the UK Government’s failure to properly inform the Scottish Government of planned legislative constraints completely undermines our ability, and that of local government, to put in place a pensions agreement that meets the needs of public sector employees in Scotland.

“UK Government Ministers have had numerous opportunities to explain their plans. So it is with genuine dismay that I have had to request urgent clarity on these issues which affect around half a million public sector employees in Scotland and I hope that the UK government will now, for the last time, tell us exactly what they plan to do.”