Alba’s Charter for Pensioners and Pensions
a) ALBA will be the champion of Scottish pensioners
Pensions are not a privilege. They are a sacred contract between the current generation and those of earlier generations who worked and sacrificed to create society as we know it. The wealth we enjoy, the culture we value, the physical and natural environment we take for granted – all these were created by those who went before us. It is the duty of society, and the state, to ensure that our older people are taken care of to the best of our ability.
To this end, the ALBA Party pledges to make Scotland the best place to live in for our older people. This includes raising the state pension entitlement to at least the equivalent of Western European standards.
To fulfil this pledge, we will need all the economic, health and legal powers bequeathed by national independence. We also recognise that to implement such a target will take time. But ALBA is determined to set this goal as a matter of respect for Scotland’s older people, who have made the Scotland we live in.
Comparing state pension remuneration between countries is difficult because of the different pension systems in place and fluctuating exchange rates. Perhaps the fairest comparison is to look at the share of national GDP allocated to pensions. In 2015, the equivalent of 5.2% of UK GDP went into public spending on pensions, compared to 7.7% in Spain, 7.9% in Germany and 12.1% in France (source: OECD). This is clear evidence that the UK is short-changing its pensioners.
While Scotland remains trapped inside the UK, ALBA’s elected members will fight to improve the pensions, living conditions and care of our older people. ALBA MPs at Westminster will oppose any plans to increase the State Pension Age beyond 66. We will campaign for the rights of WASPI women.
b) ALBA demands that power over pensions must be devolved to Holyrood
Pensions remain fully reserved to Westminster. Even with the limited social security powers devolved to Scotland, the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to create new pension benefits. This is explicitly set out in the Scotland Act 2016.
ALBA will campaign for Holyrood to have immediate control over pensions. In the interim, ALBA will put pressure on the Scottish Government to contest Westminster rules limiting the ability of Holyrood to use its top-up powers to aid Scottish pensioners.
As a first step to creating a unique Scottish pension system, ALBA calls on the Scottish Government to initiate a Scottish Pensions Commission, chaired by a respected financial practitioner and including representatives of pensioners’ organisations, the STUC, the Scottish Public Pensions Agency, the ICA of Scotland, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, and leading economists. The Scottish Pensions Commission should review the current operation of state and professional pensions, and report back in stages on a tailored scheme for Scotland.
Initiating such a Scottish Pensions Commission now, will underpin the urgency of the campaign for independence and show that a break with the UK status quo – including a break with its sub-standard state pension arrangements – is possible within the near future.
c) ALBA defends The WASPI Women
ALBA pledges to be the best defender of women’s rights in Scotland. While we agree with equalising the state pension age, ALBA does not support the unfair manner in which these changes were made by the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition Government in the 2011 Pensions Act. In particular, this poor legislation - and the failure of ministers to properly inform of its timing and consequences – resulted in some 3.9 million in the UK and Scotland, born in the 1950s, suffering uniquely from the imposed changes. As a priority, ALBA elected members will continue to campaign at Westminster to deliver fair pensions for WASPI women.
d) Protecting pensioners after independence
Those UK citizens living in Scotland after independence will still be eligible, in whole or in part, for the British state pension to which they contributed through their taxes prior to Scottish independence. The same holds for state occupational pensions. Their situation will be no different from, say, a UK pensioner opting to live in Spain. The relocation of residence has no legal bearing on the UK Treasury’s contractual obligations.
After independence, ALBA’s elected representatives will press for a “top-up” pension payment which fills the gap between the baseline UK Treasury pension payment and a higher Scottish state pension level. In this way, existing Scottish pensioners will receive a higher state pension from day one of independence.
ALBA’s commitment to a more ambitious National Care Service, and to building a new generation of top quality care homes, will mean anyone who needs that support towards the end of their lives will be able to secure it and to the highest standards.