Today I met with Lord Hutton, Chair of the Public Services Pensions Commission, in Edinburgh. He was visiting Scotland as part of his evidence gathering programme for his interim report, due to be published at the end of this month.
He helpfully set out some basic principles that would underpin his recommendations. These at least demonstrate an understanding of the important role public service pensions play, not only as the deferred pay of our members, but also the wider economic and social impact any changes would have. In particular the interface between pensions and state benefits for low paid workers.
It was a useful opportunity to expand on the written evidence we submitted to the Commission and highlight the differences between the schemes in Scotland and England. Much work has been undertaken in recent years to ensure that the Scottish schemes are both affordable and sustainable. These have been difficult negotiations but they have at least resulted in a better understanding of pensions and a broad consensus between the Scottish Government, employers and unions.
Lord Hutton's review was commissioned by the Con-Dem UK Government, not the Scottish Government. There is justifiable suspicion, given the public utterances by Nick Clegg in particular about 'gold plated pensions', that this Commission is anything but independent. Lord Hutton did much today to reassure us on that point but as ever the proof will be in his actions.