Independence pension dispute as ex-MP distances himself from Nicola Sturgeon’s demand

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A former MP has distanced himself from comments made by Nicola Sturgeon about who will pay for pensions in an independent Scotland.

Steve Webb – Britain’s Pensions Secretary in the run-up to the 2014 referendum – was quoted by the First Minister last week when she was being questioned on the issue in Holyrood.

Pro-Union parties have continued the attack after Ian Blackford claimed older Scots would still be entitled to their UK state pension in the event of independence.

The leader of the SNP in Westminster argued that pensioners who had paid social security contributions to the UK Treasury for decades would still be entitled to a refund.

This position was supported by Sturgeon last week when she told MSPs that people with “accumulated rights would continue to receive the current level of state pensions in an independent Scotland”.

She continued: “The key point for those drawing pensions is what the UK Government’s then Pensions Secretary, Steve Webb, confirmed: that people with accumulated entitlements would continue to receive the current level of state pensions in an independent system in Scotland .”

Webb, a former Lib Dem pensions minister, told a Westminster committee in 2014: “Yes. You have accrued rights in the UK system under the rules of the UK system.”

But the MP at the time also said the assessment and transfer of those accumulated rights to an independent Scotland would be a matter for negotiation.

In a clarification letter issued after the committee, Webb said Scots would expect their government “to take full responsibility for the payment of pensions to people in Scotland, including where liabilities had arisen before independence”.

Speaking about Sturgeon’s intervention last week, Webb told the Herald: “My Twitter went nuts… with vitriol on both sides and everyone was picking out bits and pieces of what I may or may not have said seven years ago to justify their case .

“I think it’s up to today’s politicians on both sides to state their stance and let the people of Scotland decide.

“The semantic analysis of what I said seven years ago is actually neither here nor there.

“Guy Oppermann, that [UK] Minister of Pensions, said something this weekend I think.

“There was oral evidence and a subsequent letter, and I don’t think it would be good for my sanity or anything else to add to that.”

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