Pension shortfall fears over Scottish referendum

A £9.8 billion shortfall in the main university pension scheme could be payable if Scotland left the UK following a vote on independence in 2014

July 30, 2013

The European Union imposes more stringent terms on pension schemes when they span two member states, as they could be with Scotland and the remainder of the UK if Scots voted for independence.

A spokesman for the Universities Superannuation Scheme said that there “may well be considerable implications for the scheme” in the event of independence.

“The trustee board will continue to assess the potential impacts on the scheme, and how best to address them,” he said, although he added that it was not yet clear whether an independent Scotland would be a member of the EU.

The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday that a £9.8 billion hole in the scheme would need to be filled immediately following independence.

Scottish Conservatives education spokeswoman Liz Smith said that the country’s universities “stand to gain very much more if Scotland remains part of the UK”.

“This is true in terms of the higher per capita funding Scottish universities receive from UK research councils, in terms of knowledge exchange and innovation, and in terms of economies of scale which help UK universities compete more effectively on the global stage,” she said in a statement yesterday.

A spokeswoman for Universities UK said that it was discussing the pension issue with the USS. “The issues are complex and are currently under review,” she said.

According to a spokeswoman for Scottish finance secretary John Swinney, the EU has already relaxed rules on filling deficits in joint pension schemes between the UK and Ireland.

“There is no reason why similar arrangements would not be possible between the rest of the UK and Scotland,” she said.

“These deficits exist now as part of the union and are a problem for the whole of the UK under the current arrangements. They are nothing to do with independence,” she added.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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