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Could an independent Scotland afford public sector pensions?

Yes. Scotland’s stewardship of public sector pensions can in some areas already be argued to have delivered more sustainable schemes than their counterparts in England and Wales.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will independence mean for the existing rights of members of affected public sector pension schemes?

In an independent Scotland, all public service pension rights and entitlements which have been accrued will continue to be fully protected and accessible – whether they have been accrued in schemes already executively devolved to Scotland or those currently reserved to Westminster. Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights means that pension rights are property rights under the Convention, which governments must respect.

There will be no difference to individual contribution rates or benefit levels as a result of independence.

On independence, the legislation and rules governing public sector pension schemes, whether reserved or already executively devolved to Scotland, will continue to apply (under the “continuity of law principle”). The arrangements for these public sector pension schemes will therefore continue to operate as at present, bridging the period before and after the date of Scotland’s independence.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Could an independent Scotland manage public sector pensions effectively?

Scotland already has the people and the infrastructure in place for delivering high quality public sector pensions. In particular, the Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) has been responsible for administering Scotland’s NHS and teachers’ pensions for over twenty years and the Scottish Government has recently confirmed that the Agency is to administer all police and fire-fighter pensions in Scotland from April 2015.

Alongside this delivery expertise, the SPPA is also responsible for developing policy for all of the main public sector pension schemes executively devolved to Scotland.

The SPPA’s mixture of multi-scheme policy and delivery responsibilities is unique in the public service pensions landscape and is a significant asset. No other body in the UK has such first-hand knowledge and experience of both designing and delivering public service pensions policy. This includes the development of policy for, and the management of, two major sets of reforms of public service pensions in the last ten years.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will independence mean for how pensions will be managed?

For scheme members and existing pensioners of Scotland’s schemes, there will be no change in pension arrangements following independence. If, for example, a former NHS Scotland employee has retired, begun to draw her pension, and moves to live in England, the Scottish NHS pension scheme will continue to pay that pension, as it does at present.

For pension schemes that are currently reserved, such as civil service, armed forces and judicial pensions, the Scottish Government will work with Westminster to ensure an orderly transition of pension responsibilities to an independent Scotland.

The Scottish Public Pensions Agency will form the basis for delivering the additional responsibilities for public sector pensions that will be required in an independent Scotland. During the transitional period, pensions will continue to be paid in full and on time and pensioners will continue to benefit from safeguards, including the governance provisions of the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 and the provisions of Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which means that pension rights are property rights under the Convention which governments must respect.

For current UK-wide public service pension schemes, the Scottish Government will take its fair share of liabilities based on meeting the pensions responsibilities of pensioners who live in Scotland.

On independence, these pension schemes will continue to operate as at present. Just as today, however, it would be open to future governments to suggest changes. Independence simply means that these future decisions will be taken in Scotland rather than by Westminster.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.