NICOLA STURGEON will “end the UK state pension overnight” with her independence plans, former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson claimed.
The Scottish First Minister came closer to her goal of leading Scotland to independence last week after her Scottish National Party (SNP) secured Holyrood in the country’s elections. In the run-up to the ballot, Ms Sturgeon said she would use the victory – and a majority in parliament – as a springboard for holding a second independence referendum. While the SNP fell one short of a majority, many view the result as having given her a mandate to hold a ballot in the future, with Ms Sturgeon hailing the “historic” fourth consecutive victory.
For now, she says she is focused on overcoming Scotland’s coronavirus epidemic.
Independence and its viability has long been picked apart by its critics.
One of Ms Sturgeon’s toughest obstacles before she resigned was the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.
In 2015, she promised Scots that her party would raise pensions every year.
It was during this announcement that she accused the SNP of trying to “con” the country’s pensioners with its independence plans.
She said: “Labour will tax you more, borrow more and spend more – and all pensioners would pay the price.
“The SNP is pulling a con trick on pensioners. It claims it wants to protect pensions and yet its plan for full fiscal autonomy would end the UK state pension overnight.”
Pensions and welfare spending have been sticking points in the independence debate.
Opponents of the SNP say Scots would be left without their UK pensions, even that which they have already saved.
They add that the country as a whole would be faced with tax hikes in order to subsidise and pay for the newly independent country’s welfare state.
Proponents of a breakaway claim that pensions and spending on welfare is, in fact, more affordable for Scotland than the UK as a whole.
Ahead of the 2014 vote, Bob Thomson, former Chairman of the Scottish Labour Party said: “Scotland has generated more tax per head than the UK as a whole in every one of the last 33 years – to the tune of £800 per head extra in 2012/13.
“The reality is that spending on welfare, including pensions, is more affordable for Scotland than for the UK as a whole – and indeed spending per head on the state pension is lower in Scotland than in the UK.
“The figures show that 38 percent of Scottish tax revenues are spent on social protection, including pensions, compared to 42 percent for the UK as a whole.”
He was speaking on behalf of Yes Scotland.
Yet, Margaret Curran, former Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, and also a member of Scottish Labour, said: “The experts are clear – if we leave the UK we would have to make massive cuts in public spending.
“This would hit those who have the least the hardest.
“Leaving the UK would be a leap in the dark for those reliant on benefits or their pension.
“By saying no thanks to separation we can make sure that we protect the most vulnerable in our society from the massive cuts that would have to happen in a separate Scotland.”
According to Believe in Scotland, an independence campaign group, the UK’s pension system is “fundamentally unfair for older people and pensions are far from safe by staying in the UK”.
It argues that: “The UK state pension system is failing older people and is unsustainable for future generations.
“It is inadequate to help pensioners live a life free from worrying about financial security.”
A motion was passed at the SNP Conference in 2019 calling for an increase of State Pension in an Independent Scotland to the same level as the OECD average and supporting the commissioning of a Scottish State Pension Plan.
Eslewhere, Ms Sturgeon faces a separate issue in what currency an independent Scotland would use.
The country currently uses the pound sterling, yet would likely have to use another form of tender if it broke away.
Ms Sturgeon claims that an independent Scotland would use sterling “for as long as necessary”, however.
Her eventual aim would be to create a Scottish currency when certain economic tests were met, but the timescale for this is “not absolutely fixed”.
The SNP has been contacted for comment on its pension policy.