Over the past few months there has been a lot of discussion about the upcoming referendum and what the impact of Scotland separating from the rest of the UK would be. I've been out and about in the constituency over the summer recess and a lot of people want to talk about the referendum. The issue that comes up time and again is pensions. It's clear people are very concerned about the impact of independence on their pension.
Being part of the UK allows us to share both the risks and rewards across the whole of the United Kingdom and, in the case of the state pension, this means that taxes from across the UK are redistributed which pays for, among other things, pensions in Scotland. In the last year �8 billion supported the poorest pensioners in the UK via Pension Credit and, although the UK system isn't perfect, it is built on a strong sustainable footing with a wide spread population to support it.
The population of the UK is getting younger, but in Scotland our population is ageing, and with a higher proportion of pensioners to working people, there's a serious question about how pensions will be paid for if Scotland was to separate from the UK.
We know from a leaked Scottish Government cabinet document that the SNP is worried about the affordability of pensions in a separate Scotland, but this isn't what they have been telling the Scottish people. It's not clear whether they are planning higher taxes, lower pensions or big cuts to other areas of public spending. Scots deserve clear answers about their pensions instead of the assertions and guess work they have been getting so far.
Being part of the UK also allows many people's pensions to be protected by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) so that, should the worst happen, people don't lose out on their pensions.
In a recent bankruptcy case, the British workers received 90 per cent of their pensions because of the PPF while their colleagues in Ireland, which didn't have the same level of protection, got only 30 per cent. Despite the importance of the PPF, the SNP haven't even contacted them to discuss their plans for separation. On pensions, the SNP has simply not done their homework. I believe Scotland is much better placed to tackle the challenges ahead in pensions as part of the United Kingdom. On pensions, there is no doubt that we are better together.