Scottish independence: SNP must ‘reassure’ voters on pensions ahead of indyref2

THE SNP must “reassure” voters or risk undermining its credibility on the issue of pensions in an independent Scotland, the party has warned.

Party politician Toni Giugliano called for “clarity and certainty” on the issue ahead of a new referendum on Scottish independence.

Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Westminster leader Ian Blackford have come under fire in recent days from Unionists after saying British taxpayers would continue to pay Scots pensions in the event of independence.

The claim was called “misleading” by Conservative Pensions Minister Guy Opperman on Sunday.

Guy Opperman

Now campaigners have urged the SNP to clarify its message on the future of pensions after independence.

READ MORE: Pension issue in independent Scotland backfired on Murdo Fraser

An SNP source told The National that it was “important that we communicate [pensions policy] effectively”.

The source added: “I don’t think we managed to do that last week. It created a lot of confusion and felt like passing the buck.

“People who have worked all their lives want to know that what they have contributed will come back through their pension.

“The government of a newly independent country will guarantee the pensions of its citizens. Ultimately, we have to make that commitment.

“We need to reassure. Every time you start talking about other governments, it creates question marks.

“In 2014, when we were talking about monetary union, we had the ball in our opponent’s court.”

The National: Gordon MacIntyre-KempGordon MacIntyre-Kemp

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, the head of pro-independence think tank Business for Scotland, has called on the Holyrood administration to commit to paying pensions if Scotland leaves the UK.

He said: “What the SNP should be saying is the simple truth that pensions will be safer and better in an independent Scotland.

“The Scottish Government must guarantee all pensions and benefits. Pensions are to be paid and administered by the Scottish Government”.

READ MORE: The reality of pensions in a Scotland that voted for independence

“This is what independence means – once the transition period is over, the provider and guarantor of your pensions will be the government of an independent Scotland – not the government of what will then be an outside state.”

He added that he expected the UK government would not be “spared in cost” as the negotiations would require the two administrations to share state assets and liabilities.

Giugliano, the SNP’s policy chief, told The National that Scots want “clarity and certainty” on the issue of post-independence pensions.

“It’s not a negotiation period, it’s a pre-campaign period,” he said.

The National: Toni GiuglianoToni Giugliano

“We need to provide more certainty on pensions now. Regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, the government of an independent Scotland would be the guarantor of the pensions.

Dennis Canavan, the former chairman of Yes Scotland’s advisory board, said pensioners “deserve a firm and unequivocal commitment now that the state pension will be preserved in an independent Scotland”.

As the Scottish government has reaffirmed independence at the top of its agenda, the pensions debate has become a hot topic.

Blackford has drawn fury from Unionist politicians after comments made on the independence podcast Scotland’s Choice. Asked what would happen to Scottish pensions after independence, he replied: “Absolutely nothing”.

The National: Ian BlackfordIan Blackford

He told the hosts that “the commitment to continue to pay pensions rests with the UK government”, even in the event that Scotland leaves the UK.

READ MORE: ‘The Tories are nervous’: Nicola Sturgeon enters row at independence pensions

Tory MP Murdo Fraser echoed the comments, asking the Prime Minister last week if it was ‘really now the SNP’s position that pensions in an independent Scotland would be paid for by the taxpayers in England?’

Sturgeon replied that the Tories were ‘nervous’ over the issue of pensions and reaffirmed Blackford’s belief that the UK government would continue to pay pensions to those who have ‘earned rights’ through lifelong contributions to the national insurance.

The National: Nicola SturgeonNicholas Sturgeon

She cited evidence provided to a Holyrood committee in 2014 by then Pensions Minister Steve Webb. He later returned to comments made during the session in written evidence.

An SNP spokesperson said: “The UK government confirmed in 2014 that after independence people would be entitled to the pension contributions they had paid into the UK system.

“However, independence will also give us the opportunity to provide significantly better pensions than are currently available, given that the UK has a public pension that lags behind many neighboring European countries and other developed countries.”

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