Scotland politics

Scots public sector workers to see pension contribution rise

Thousands of public sector workers in Scotland will see their pension contributions increase for a second year, the Scottish government has said.

SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney said he opposed the rise but had to follow UK reforms or find £100m a year to offset the increases.

Opposition parties accused him of shirking responsibility and blaming unpopular decisions on Westminster.

Mr Swinney said most areas of pensions policy were reserved to Westminster.

The pension changes will affect about 250,000 people in Scotland, including teachers, NHS workers police and firefighters.

The UK government said the pension system needed to be reformed to make it sustainable and account for the ageing population.

Mr Swinney told the Scottish Parliament the UK government had confirmed its intention to increase public sector worker pension contributions in the coming year, as part of a move to increase contributions by an average of 3.2% per cent of pensionable pay by 2014-15.

He added: "For the Scottish government to refuse to implement this increase would result in our funding being reduced by £100m for each and every year the increase was not applied.

"That financial burden is too large to further impose on Scotland's communities who are already dealing with difficult economic times."

Labour MSP Ken Macintosh said his party opposed the changes, and attacking Mr Swinney's decision, said: "The Scottish government does have a choice - it may be a difficult choice, it may be a very expensive choice, but is their choice nonetheless."

'Endless complaining'

For the Conservatives, Mary Scanlon, said she supported fair and sustainable pensions, adding that nobody making less than £15,000 would be affected by an increase.

Quoting from a letter by Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, Ms Scanlon said: "Within the the Public Services Pensions Bill, Scottish ministers have significant flexibility in the design of the pension scheme, the freedom to choose the rate at which pensions are built up each year, revaluation rates and arrangements for those choosing to retire earlier or later than their normal pension age.

"The Scottish government can also choose how much of the budget is devoted to public sector pensions."

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie said of Mr Swinney: "He complains endlessly that he has no choice when he knows that he does - he's got powers on early retirement accrual rates, contribution and much more.

"The truth is that when he's faced with the same decisions as the UK, he's taken the same decisions as the UK."

Mr Swinney also said he was refusing to give the UK government control over six small pension schemes, including those for staff at Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, currently administered by the Scottish parliament.

A Treasury spokesman said: "Today the Scottish government opted to not reform a small number of very generous schemes. It is up to the Scottish government to explain how they would pay for this."

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