This SNP claim may be electioneering, but it highlights the deplorable state of UK pensions

Selecting coins from a hand & Scottish flag on a lampost
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Believe in Scotland (BiS) is a website that aims to answer questions about Scottish independence. And as reported on its website, the Advertising Standards Authority rejected unionist demands that BiS remove its billboards about UK state pensions. The billboard advertisements claim the state pension could double in an independent Scotland:

These billboards highlight an uncomfortable truth for unionists. In 2017, the Guardian reported an OECD study that showed the UK had the “lowest state pension of any developed country”. And now, according to this 2019 OECD research, the UK state pension is still among the lowest in the world. So low, in fact, that some people might have to live off 28.4% of their pre-retirement earnings. The OECD system:

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measures how effectively a pension system provides a retirement income to replace earnings

Countries such as Denmark, France, and China pay at least 70% of pre-retirement earnings. Argentina, Italy, and India all pay over 90%. So if the claim of ‘doubling pensions’ sounds outlandish, then that’s a reflection on the payment, not the claim.


SNP candidate for Dumbarton Toni Giugliano made a similar claim about the state pension. Giugliano said:

Keeping pensions low is a political choice. The UK Govt keeps them so low it forces people into taking private pensions. In turn this boosts the profits of the City of London. And those who can’t afford them end up in poverty. It’s a disgrace.

He then claimed:

With independence and the full economic levers available to us we can begin to increase our state pension gradually – with the aim of reaching the EU average over a period of time.

And Giugliano made an even bolder boast in a newspaper advertisement claiming:

And while this could well be electioneering ahead of Holyrood’s “independence election” on 6 May, it underlies the deplorable state of UK pensions.

Back in the headlines again

And it’s not the first time pensions have entered the Scottish independence debate. During the last referendum campaign in 2014, former prime minister Gordon Brown used pensions to argue against independence. Brown argued that Scottish pensioners would be financially better off in the UK. However, BiS argues:

It was a disgraceful Better Together campaign tactic in 2014 to tell pensioners that their miserly low UK state pension was at threat from independence when in fact the risk of reduction is now far greater because we remained part of the UK.

No pension?

Changes to the UK retirement age have resulted in some people feeling ‘too young to retire, too old to work’. And while there can be intrinsic reward in working after retirement, that’s usually if it’s by choice and not necessity.

According to 2017 research, about 15 million people in the UK don’t have a pension. So post-retirement, they could be facing a bleak financial future or having to work out of necessity.

The importance of a good pension

Getting up early, returning home late, and spending time away from loved ones can take its toll. And while this pandemic may have reduced some commutes, it hasn’t reduced the hours spent at work or worrying about work. So there can be comfort in knowing, one day, you will retire. But how much comfort is there in a retirement that pays less than a third of previous earnings?

Maybe Scottish independence won’t change that immediately. But this current debate does highlight how people’s retirement has been badly neglected by successive Tory and right-wing Labour governments. A much newer approach is sorely needed.

Featured image via Pixabay – Frantisek Krejci & Pixabay – Emphyrio

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  • Show Comments
    1. In an independent Scotland you wouldn’t need a pension as life expectancy would drop even lower than it is now. Sturgeon’s own constituency has a below average life expectancy. Drugs deaths have soared under her leadership and education standards have plummeted. Despite what The Canary and Nats would say, this is due to the SNP, not the Tories.

      1. This toxic tory mental case does nothing but spout hateful xenophobic anti-SNP bullshit and nothing gets done about it??? It’s clearly hate speech and it’s clearly permitted. Why is that?? Why are my sane, reasonable comments removed when the above unhinged hateful lies go unchallenged? Somebody’s obviously moderating this shit, so what’s going on? You’re actually allowing xenophobic hate speech? Why??

    2. What Diane says is irrelevant because it’s only factual in her/his own demented & venomous, anti-Scottish one-track mind. What’s important here is that an obviously disturbed person with a deeply unhinged hatred of a country, the way it’s governed, its people, and probably the rest of the universe, is being allowed to use this site as a mini megaphone for extreme-right lies and hate.

      The double standards thing going on is pretty shocking. If this kind of hateful bile was directed towards PoC or LGBTQ+ etc it would quite rightly be instantly condemned, but being vile about my country and the people who live in it appears to be acceptable. That is, for lack of a better way to put it, total bullshit. How the hell do we move forward with this kind of absurdity holding us back? And please don’t pull the free speech card, cause that’s not what this is. This is hate speech, pure and simple.

      1. I disagree with most of what Diane says, but the argument you are presenting has often been used to silence criticism of Israel. Also, there are many people in Scotland who agree with he/she/it. Someone had to vote for those Scottish Tory MPs, even if they are too ashamed to admit it. Also, people have been critical on the Canary of the “woke” line on Trans rights, (something which many Trans people are)
        I myself live in Scotland and support independence, and I often wonder if the SNP are a hindrance or a help!

    3. What? I’m anti-Semitic because I feel the Canary should come down as hard on anti-Scottish hate as they would on racism and homo/transphobia? Are you taking the piss?

      And the fact that you’re obviously against the party that wants to put an end to the horror of more tory rule pretty much says you don’t support independence.

      And the less said about “woke” and what’s left of the Scottish tories, for now, the better.

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