By Martin Kelly
The UK’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed that UK pensions will continue to be paid in full to Scots, even if Scotland becomes independent.
The news was revealed by First Minister Alex Salmond after a constituent wrote to the DWP asking what would happen in the event of independence.
In an official reply, a DWP official wrote: “If Scotland does become independent, this will have no effect on your state pension – you will continue to receive it just as you do at present.”
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Salmond slammed what he said was opposition scaremongering over the pension arrangements of an independent Scotland.
“Given that the pensions service, the agency of the UK government, is sending to my constituents in Aberdeenshire such definitive information, it ill-behoves Labour and Tory scaremongerers who come to this chamber with a scaremongering agenda.”
The letter is a blow to the No campaign, which has repeatedly claimed that the state pension would be at risk in an independent Scotland. According to the anti-independence campaign group Better Together, state pensions in an independent Scotland would be “under threat”.
Speaking recently, Better Together head Alistair Darling said on the cost of pensions:
“Carrying this cost is a bigger problem for Scotland than for the rest of the UK because of the age structure of our population. Within the union, however, that risk is pooled with the whole country, and will not have to be borne purely out of Scottish resources.
“That is something now accepted by both sides of the independence argument. That’s a positive benefit of the union for Scotland. Conversely separating from the union would diminish our long-term financial security.”
However, in what appeared to be a move aimed at limiting the damage to the anti-independence campaign, the DWP issued a hastily worded statement in which they suggested the information contained in the letter was wrong.
A DWP spokesman said: “We will look into this specific letter in case any misleading information was inadvertently given out.
“However, what is absolutely clear is that it will be the responsibility of an independent Scottish government, not the UK government, to make arrangement for pensions for citizens of an independent Scotland.
“There can be no guarantee that it will be at the same level as it is now.”
The DWP letter follows a demand from the Electoral Commission for both sides to clarify what will happen in the aftermath of the referendum.
This November the Scottish Government will publish the long awaited White Paper which will provide answers to key areas surrounding the independence debate.
Unionist parties are coming under increasing pressure to put forward an agreed devolution settlement should Scots vote No, that will detail precisely what extra powers will be transferred to Holyrood.
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