The “campaigners” referred to in this headline from The National today – SNP must ‘reassure’ voters on pensions ahead of indyref2, campaigners say – must think pensioners are all extremely stupid. A few undoubtedly are. A few more will find it expedient to pretend to be stupid. But most of us are perfectly capable of working out for ourselves that pension entitlement accrued when working for one company doesn’t just evaporate into thin air when you change jobs. Why then would pension entitlement accumulated when you are a citizen of one country simply vanish when you become a citizen of another country, either instead of or as well as the first country?
Determined scaremongers will say that changing nationality isn’t like changing jobs. Some pensioners will be stupid enough to assume without further explanation that this means there cannot be relevant parallels. Others will choose to appear stupid enough to assume this because it suits some devious purpose to do so. Most of us will just shrug and get on with our lives as certain as anyone ever can be about anything that our pension will continue to be paid once independence is restored. Because there is no reason to believe otherwise.
Most pensioners, I’m sure, are perfectly capable of grasping the fact that there is no pensions ‘pot’ – as in a separate fund used only for pensions and topped up from taxes and borrowing. Most of us have sense enough to realise that such a ‘pot’ would make no sense. Most of us would see that it makes more sense to have pensions paid directly from tax revenues and borrowing – the way everything else is paid for by governments.
Not being stupid, and having no ulterior motive informed by some political agenda, most pensioners like myself are well able to figure out that if pensions paid in any country are funded from the taxes levied by and borrowing undertaken by that country, then pensions in Scotland must be paid from the taxes raised in Scotland made up when necessary by money that is borrowed.
I don’t consider myself significantly more intelligent than the average pensioner and I immediately follow the chain of logic which takes me in no time at all to the realisation that the only thing that changes with the restoration of Scotland’s independence is which government administers the tax and borrowing. At present, tax raised in Scotland is administered by a government in England which is not elected by taxpayers in Scotland. Likewise, the money which is invariably needed to meet expenditure on pensions etc in Scotland is borrowed on our behalf by a government in England which has no democratic legitimacy in Scotland. A government which is not democratically accountable to the people of Scotland. A government over which we have to control and no meaningful influence.
Most pensioners who think the thing through cannot help but conclude that the only thing which changes with regard to their pensions when Scotland’s independence is restored is that taxes and borrowings which pay their pensions will cease to be administered by what is effectively a foreign government and will instead be in the hands of a government elected by and accountable to the people of Scotland.
I think I can safely presume to speak for most pensioners in Scotland when I say that we are democrats. Which means we adhere to the principle that ultimate political authority is vested entirely in the people and that political authority – such as the authority to levy taxes and borrow money – can only be legitimate to the extent that it derives from and inevitably returns to the people. It takes no great intelligence at all to see that the political authority asserted by the British political elite cannot be democratically legitimate. That authority can only be democratically legitimate in Scotland if it is sanctioned by the people of Scotland. As it will be when independence is restored.
The corollary to this – patronising “campaigners” take note – is that even if the government of the rest of the UK (rUK) were to renege on its obligations to people who had accumulated pension entitlement under their undemocratic administration, the tax-levying and borrowing authority that they wielded would simply pass to the government of Scotland. Nothing else would change. We would still pay the taxes which have always funded pensions or the borrowing needed to pay pensions. There would be no necessary or likely impact on pensions at all.
In the end, the matter of pensions, like every other aspect of the constitutional issue, distils down to a simple question of trust. Given that there is no rational reason to suppose pension payments will be adversely affected in any way, who do you trust more to administer the taxes and borrowing involved? Who do you, as a citizen of Scotland, choose to entrust with the political authority which is yours alone to bestow as you see fit? Do you want to be able to choose the government on which your rely for your pension? Or are you happy to have no choice at all in the matter? Will you put your trust in a government elected by the people of Scotland? Or are you content that the people of England choose that government for you?
Most pensioners in Scotland are, I am certain, quite smart enough to know that the suggestion voting Yes means you’re signing away your pension is nonsensical scaremongering. In voting to restore Scotland’s independence you are not signing away anything. Rather, you are reclaiming what is rightfully yours. You are stripping away from a corrupt and incompetent foreign government that you had no part in electing the power to threaten your pension as they are doing right now. You are bringing power back where it rightfully belongs – with the people of Scotland – in order to give democratically legitimate authority to a government answerable to you. A government that wouldn’t dare threaten your pension for fear of incurring the wrath of the people who elect it.
Most pensioners need no reassurance because we are old enough and sufficiently well-versed in the ways of the world to recognise an attempt to terrorise us into meek compliance when we encounter it. For most of us, this will not be a novel experience. More and more of us are prepared to take a stand against such strong-arm tactics. We are not stupid. We are not intimidated.
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