Nicola Sturgeon and Ian Blackfords preposterous claim about pensions uncovered

Ian Blackford gets asked if he’s ever told a lie

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Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, said that Scottish citizens’ rights to a UK pension would remain even if Scotland became independent from the UK. Comparing it to the pension rights of British expatriates, he said: “If you or I as UK citizens go and live in another European country then our right to that UK pension remains.” He also made the claim on nationalist podcast Scotland’s Choice, when asked what would happen to Scotland’s state pension if the country voted for independence.

Mr Blackford said: “Absolutely nothing. The important point is that those who have contributed to the UK have an entitlement for a pension … So that commitment to continue to pay pensions rests with the UK Government.

“That’s no different to a UK citizen that chooses — for example — to live in Canada, or Spain, or France, or anywhere else.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon doubled down on Mr Blackford’s assertion last week, saying: “When Scotland votes for independence, as was the case in 2014, the distribution of existing UK liabilities and assets, including those related to pensions, will be subject to negotiation, and Scotland will fully pay its way in that.”

But Scottish journalist Alex Massie hit out at the “preposterous claim”, describing the comparison as “daft”.

He said: “The whole bloody point of independence is that we shall not be UK citizens.

“The comparison is daft. Scots would not be British expatriates after independence.

“Responsibility for the state pension — as distinct from public-sector occupational pensions which would indeed need to be divvied up — would lie in Scotland alone.

Breaking the claim down, Mr Massie wrote: “This is easily disposed of.

“First, there is no state pension pot into which you contribute.

“State pensions are funded from current revenue.

“Today’s pensions are paid by today’s taxpayers.

“There is no pot to be transferred.”

Writing in the Times, he added: “Second, consider this: if Wales became an independent country would you expect Scots to pay Welsh pensions?

“Of course not. The suggestion is laughable.”

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Both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Blackford faced criticism over their comments about state pensions, with Tory pensions minister Guy Opperman describing them as “misleading.”

He told the Mail on Sunday: “If Scotland chooses to become a foreign country, then working English, Welsh and Northern Irish taxpayers should not pay for a foreign country’s pension liabilities.

“That has been the settled position of the UK Government since before the 2014 referendum.”

He added: “Nicola Sturgeon and Ian Blackford are, once again, misleading Scots.”

But an SNP spokesperson told the paper: “The UK Government said in 2014 that after independence people would still be entitled to the pension contributions they had made to the UK system.

“However independence will also give us the opportunity to provide significantly better pensions than currently available, given that the UK has a state pension provision lagging behind many other developed nations.”

But Mr Massie debunked this, writing: “The assertion that the UK would retain responsibility for these matters, a claim repeated by Nicola Sturgeon last week, rests on one line of jumbled testimony given to a House of Commons committee by Steve Webb, the Lib Dem pensions minister in 2014.

“During that appearance, he appeared to give some credence to the SNP’s claims. He was wrong.

“Webb’s testimony was so muddled he was required to clarify the position.

“Helpfully, this is on the parliamentary record: ‘People in the rest of the UK would not be expecting to guarantee or underwrite the pensions of those living in what would then have become a separate country.

“‘The security and sustainability of pensions being paid to people in Scotland would, therefore, depend on the ability of Scottish taxpayers to fund them'”.

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