Friday, 26 April 2013

A Scare A Day...Pensions edition

This is the first of our 'Scare a Day' posts.  We say first because unfortunately we believe this will become a regular feature until the referendum.  Hopefully we're wrong and we can focus on more positive topics, such as our potential to diversify our economy, create a more peaceful foreign policy and reduce poverty and homelessness.

 "Independence...independence?!  NNOOOOOOooooooo............" BBC Scotland viewer survey

Today's 'scare' story comes from the BBC and focuses on pensions.  You can look at it here.  It raised quite a number of points so lets look at them one at a time:

1) Who would make state pension payments in an independent Scotland and take responsibility for any entitlements built up prior to independence?

A) Your entitlement to the state pension or pension credits on Day One of an independent Scotland will be the exact same as your entitlement before independence (Yes Scotland website).  This part depends upon the outcome of the negotiations between Holyrood and Westminster, although it is likely to be based on residency.  We can't say for certain because Westminster refuses to discuss the details.

2) Who would be responsible for unfunded public sector pension liabilities built up prior to independence?

A) Scotland currency spends a smaller share than the UK of both our national wealth and tax revenues to deliver pension and welfare payments in Scotland.  So the pension or pension credit you receive is more affordable for Scotland than it is for the UK (Yes Scotland website).  This part also depends upon the outcome of negotiations.  We can't answer because Westminster MPs don't want you to know.

3) What pension regulation and protection arrangements would an independent Scotland need for private sector pensions?

A) Your private pension will not be affected by Scotland becoming an independent country.  Your contract with your pension provider will continue as now (Yes Scotland website).  Ultimately, pension policy would depend upon who we elect.

4) And how would EU solvency requirements for defined benefit and hybrid pensions schemes be met across the UK if Scotland became an independent country?

A) Finally, we come across a question where the answer isn't available on the first page of the Yes Scotland pensions Q&A section.

The answer to this is in two parts: first, many countries within the EU (and outwith) have agreements in place to allow temporary deficits in private pension schemes, and there is no reason why Scotland could not be included in those.  There are many Scottish companies who employ workers abroad, and few nations would want to lose these jobs trying to block something that doesn't affect them.

Second, who allowed the massive funding gaps in private pensions?  Which parliament raided the pension funds and left them precious little protection from the financial markets?  Which parliament has created this problem and left it to us to pick up the tab?  Taking control over pensions, and ensuring that the hard earned funds that people need to rely on aren't abused, is one of the main reasons for independence.

"The mainstream media are not biased," every mainstream media outlet.

We at Sign for Scotland believe that journalism is about investigating the facts, removing fiction and distortion, fairly representing differing viewpoints and avoiding personal bias.  Unfortunately the BBC doesn't agree:

"We reported the opinions as expressed at that time. We featured an opposing voice. We report other opinions, such as those you cite, when they are made known, and quote those who disagree with them, too. It is called journalism." (email from editor of Reporting Scotland - 24th April 2013).

When someone believes the above idiology, they don't realise when they are being biased.  We've mentioned media bias before (Recording this Moment - A challenge) and others have done the same (Bella Caledonia - On Balance) but it needs repeating to help these journalists understand that their job is more than to just parrot the views of the powerful.  Their job is to bring better understand.

Can BBC Scotland genuinely say that they left their viewers with a greater level of understanding?  I don't think so.

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