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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Public Service Pensions Bill

My work over the past two days has been focused on pensions, following the second reading of the UK Public Service Pension Bill on Monday 29 October 2012.

UNISON has a range of concerns over this Bill, although my efforts have been concentrated on the specifically Scottish aspects as they impact on the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) in Scotland. And to correct some mischievous briefings, we did not ask MPs to vote against the Bill. Our concerns can and should be addressed at the Committee Stage.

Primary pension legislation is a reserved issue mainly covered by the UK Superannuation Act 1972. This is largely enabling legislation that allows the Scottish Parliament to design schemes by regulation that meets Scottish requirements. In practice the NHS scheme closely follows England because changes to the scheme require Treasury approval. No such approval is required for the Scottish LGPS because it is funded in Scotland and that remains unchanged in this Bill.  

However, the Bill prescribes key elements of all schemes and that will apply to the Scottish LGPS for the first time. All of these matters are currently decided in Scotland and therefore significantly undermine the current and future Scottish LGPS agreement. If the Bill goes through unchanged the Scottish Parliament will be required to bring the LGPS into line with agreements reached in England on key issues. These may not reflect Scottish circumstances and constitute an unwarranted interference by the Treasury in Scottish provisions. 

UNISON has taken legal advice that this legislation requires the approval of the Scottish Parliament through a Legislative Consent Motion (Sewell convention). Surprisingly, the Scottish Government has not taken action on this issue to defend the prerogative of the Scottish Parliament. Officials have advised ministers that Sewell motion is not required. However, thanks to a question tabled by Cathy Jamieson MP, the Treasury has now confirmed that a Sewell motion is required. We suspect that this is only on fairly narrow grounds, but it opens the door for Scottish Ministers to demand that the Bill is amended to retain the current powers of the Scottish Parliament on this issue. 

While this is undoubtedly a power grab by the Treasury, we do not accept that Scottish Ministers are powerless to act. The big boy did it and we ran away - wont wash here.


  1. "The big boy did it and we ran away". You surely cannot be suggesting that our Scottish Government would be more interested in blaming Westminster than taking real action to defend pensions and the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

    I am shocked! Well actually not a lot!

  2. Great article and interesting discovery about public service pensions bill.Thanks for this

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