Monday 27 February 2012

Pensions In An Independent Scotland

Last week my blogger friend, Anna Raccoon, dared to post about British Pensioners and the Scottish Referendum.

More daringly she described the land north of Aberdeen as 'frozen waste'. How dare she! The picture is of a village on the Moray coast and, I'm reliably informed, the ground there has not experienced anything other than a very light frost this winter. Produce was harvested easily - a task which has required great effort in the past four winters.

The Moray coast is one of my favourite pieces of coastline in the UK and the weather seldom disappoints. Visitors don't expect continental temperatures yet they return again and again.

Now to her comments regarding 'immigrants or foreign nationals' pensions.  By this she appears to mean English people who live in Scotland.

Many English people to come to live here (in this part of Scotland) are retired or here because they wish to be near family. Those who are retired say the excellence of the Scottish NHS was one of the main reasons they decided to move - a point not raised by her commenters.

I cannot see a Scottish government refusing to pay 'foreign nationals' a form of Winter Fuel Payment if they meet the necessary qualifications. That would be against most Scots' inherent feeling of social justice.

Anna's argument raises one point which has concerned me for many years. I have a brother who has only lived in the UK for a couple of years since he was 16. He has lived in Canada now for 40 years and has dual nationality which allows him to claim his state pension from the UK as well as his Canadian pension. Surely it can't be right that someone who has contributed little or nothing to the UK is able to claim their pension 'rights'?

When Scotland gains independence will 'foreign nationals' be allowed dual nationality and thus claim a state pension from both Scotland and whatever England, Wales and N Ireland decide to call themselves?

Will an independent Scotland right that wrong or will the EU have the final say?


RMcGeddon said...

Do you not have to pay a stamp for 30yrs ( over your working life) to get a full state pension SR ?
It used to be 37yrs but changed recently.

RMcGeddon said...

Forgot to say. You can pay a stamp while working and living abroad so that you were eligible for a UK pension when you retire. You just post the money to the tax office each year and ask for an update on your pension rights in the UK.

Captain Ranty said...


I received a letter last year to say that I had completed my pension payments having chipped in for 32 years. They say I owe them £78.43 "but there is no rush for you to make this outstanding payment".


pa_broon74 said...

I commented on that blog, Anna Racoon's postings are usually informative and fair, this one though left much to be desired.

Just more scare-mongering which is disappointing, more proof that they just don't get where we're coming from in Scotland these days.

subrosa said...

I think it's now 32 years RM, but you're right - to get a full pension you have to pay full stamp for that period.

But, anyone who has ever worked and paid NI for any period of time is entitled to a very basic pension. My brother worked here for around 2 years in the 60s and that's why he qualifies. I know he's contributed nothing here since.

subrosa said...

I didn't know that RM and the DWP never told me either. Hence I had my pension reduced for the years I worked in Europe because I wasn't prepared to give them the £thousands they requested.

subrosa said...

Ah Ranty, yes I think it's 32 years now.

How can you owe them money? Doesn't make sense does it.

subrosa said...

Auch, I just thought I'd have a go at her image of the north east pa_broon. She'd do the same I hope if I painted a poor picture of her surroundings in France. :)

JRB said...

Well, Ms Racoon has, deliberately or otherwise, hit a raw nerve.

Yes, perhaps she is right in describing the north as a frozen wasteland.
But does she ever stop to wonder why?

The ethnic cleansing that was the Highland Clearances was some time ago, but it has left a legacy from which the area is still recovering.
Too many of our children still have to leave to seek their future elsewhere.
Too many city dwellers sell their town houses and retire to the north, raising property values, again forcing the young to move away.
Too many absentee landlords own vast estates where the welfare of the grouse and the deer get greater attention than the welfare of the people.

The major city of the Highlands is accessed by one of two roads, only one of which is partially dual-carriageway. The rail link to the Highlands is for its greater part single-track, and the airport is a left over from WWII.

Mention is made of the outstanding NHS services, and indeed they are outstanding, but for an area the size of Belgium, or if you wish, a land mass greater than London and the home counties put together, for such a vast area to have only one major hospital is a scandal.

I doubt if the good people south of the border or even those in the Central belt of Scotland would tolerate such shortcomings.

Yes, perhaps the area north of Aberdeen is a frozen wasteland, but that wasteland, beautiful and magnificent as it is, has been created, sometimes deliberately, by generations of political and administrative neglect by those in Edinburgh and London.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Governments have played fast and lose with pension for years to suit the limitations of their current account aspirations. A never to the benefit of the contributors.

For people in similar circumstances to Rosa's brother they should be offered the small amount they contributed back -with simple interest added - offered as a take it or leave it lump sum.

The present system is a clear indication of bureaucratic indolence to do no more than is absolutely necessary.

Which, when looked at from the other perspective is the cause that underlines the ineptitude that allows the benefit scrounging to flourish. To the ultimate detriment of all, but in particular to those in genuine need.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

And, that's my birth-land she's spouting about and it's no more a wasteland than Filing Cabinet London.

subrosa said...

She perhaps thinks like many who have seldom, if ever, travelled north of the border JRB.

Your description is spot on. Thank you.

subrosa said...

That's what should happen Crinkly but it won't. I wonder just how many are in a similar position to my brother and receive the basic pension. Quite a few I suspect.

Auch you can't compare Morayshire with London Crinkly. They're world's apart. One is nearer heaven than hell.

Brian said...

We had several delightful summer family holidays in Nairn and I only remember sunny days up there.

For state pension forecast click here and for the number of years NI contributions click here. Just a bit of advice I used to dish out in the JobCentre.
The people in Newcastle who deal with NI and pension forecasts are very nice and helpful to talk to, btw.

Nikostratos said...


One would imagine if (god forbid) Scotland became Independent the UK citisens living legally within Scotland.
Would have a choice to take either English or Scottish Citisenship with the consequent responsibilities to the Nation they choose.

Why someone who now lives and works in England for Economic reasons but has all their family in Scotland. would be considered a Foreign National mystifys me and no doubt many other right minded people.

'or will the EU have the final say?'

Oh do come on Sub! if (God forbid) Scotland became Independent the EU would as it is now be supreme you know that!! EU supersedes any National law,
And Alex has sworn to stay within the EU

so they will have the first, second and final know that as do all the other eurosceptics.

Anonymous said...

Blimey, have all the Scots lost their sense of humour in the recent cold spell?

Just for the benefit of those who don't regularly read my blog - I AM Scottish, a member of the Cameron Blackie clan, so lets dispel this English thing.

Now, the reference to the frozen waste north of Aberdeen was a sarcastic one, aimed at a government that firmly believes that anyone who lives within the European community but outside of what is currently the United Kingdom - LIVES IN A HOT COUNTRY. That is why the piece was illustrated with a picture of Benidorm beach labelled as supposedly Aberdeen.
Next, are you seriously saying that everyone who is resident in Scotland on the date of the referendum and thus entitled to vote, will be granted 'Scottish citizenship' if you get independence? Really, and all the benefits of Scottish citizenship - all you have to do is rent a house in Scotland get on the voting register and bye-bye Greek passport?
I do very much doubt that - and the courtesy can't be extended to the English and not the Greeks or any other member of the EU who is entitled to vote in local government elections - and so far they say that all those on that register can vote in the referendum.
You've been so quick to take offence at what you saw as a slight against Scotland, that you have missed the point of the article which is the way the British Government treat British pensioners who have paid up their 33 or 35 years and then had the temerity to live outside of the United Kingdom - if Scotland becomes 'outside of the United Kingdom' they will have the same problems living in Scotland that they have moving 20 miles south from Dover to Calais. The UK government will decree that they now live in a 'Hot' country and don't need winter fuel.
Perhaps if you took your heads out of your chippy Scottish bubble, you would realise that I was poking fun at the UK government not Scotland and saying 'Go on, try saying north of Aberdeen is a hot country'.....
For Pete's sake!

JRB said...

Ms Raccoon

Many thanks for kindly posting an explanation of what you had intended.

As a dour old Highlander I do confess to having missed the delicate subtlety of your sarcastic use of a ‘frozen waste’ to describe God’s own country.

But then, my own posts may be taken as being akin to fly fishing; sometimes I get a bite, sometimes I don’t.


Anonymous said...

Try posting something on cyclists JRB. Many bites from the same old trouts guaranteed with every mention....they will even Tweet your post to every cyclist within a 500 mile radius. Most fly fishing.

Nikostratos said...


This will explain (Subrosa average reader as well)
HE is 63 years’ old, donates £84 a year to his party, and whenever he hears someone criticise his country, takes it as a personal insult – say hello to the Scottish National Party’s everyman.

subrosa said...

I've never had dealings with the Ni and pensions at Newcastle other than by a common letter, but still your links don't explain why 'emigrants' receive pensions.

subrosa said...

Niko it's progress I'm told. How have other countries managed?

Anonymous said...

Actually Subrosa - My better half has worked abroad all his life and will get a UK pension from the 14th of next month - its called voluntary self employed stamp - you don't have to pay it, you don't get anything else in return for it, no NHS benefits nothing - but you do get a UK pension after paying it for 37 years.....

Anonymous said...

Oh and gee - thanks for the link, I'm getting a wonderful class of bigoted insults from so called readers of your blog who seem incapable of reading, all on a post that is a week old.
Somebody tell them that I am Scottish, I'm getting tired of listening to them ranting.

subrosa said...

Jings Anna, no we haven't lost our sense of humour and we haven't had the cold spell other parts of UK have had in recent weeks. In fact during the day here it hasn't been below 12 degrees.

You may be of Scottish descent but have you lived or worked here for any period of time?

However that aside, why was north of Aberdeen picked when in truth any land north of the SE is regarded as an inferior region by the EU.

The Home Office state on their website the qualifications for anyone voting in 2014. It's not a simple case of driving over the border for the day. :) A three year residency is involved. Anyone renting a home now will be disqualified. The same applies to those from the EU.

I'm awaiting a reply from a Norwegian friend about your point regarding those who decide to live outside of their home country. Will let you know their response.

Like JRB (below) I didn't get the subtlety. Perhaps it's a culture difference between those who live both north and south of the border. :)

From recent experience I would say Aberdeen has been warmer than much of England, but then again I live in that wonderful chippy bubble called Scotland.

subrosa said...

Niko, that's one reason I don't belong to any political party. I like to keep them guessing perhaps and make them work for my vote. :)

subrosa said...

Anna, my brother hasn't paid a bean towards any UK pension, other than when he worked for a couple of years in the Foreign Office back in the 60s. I didn't believe him initially but he emailed me all the paper work some years ago which did state he was eligible for a minimum monthly pension.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Subrosa?

Neither your brother nor anybody else has a 'right' to a pension - you get a UK pension in return for having paid for it for 37 years - you could have done the same thing.

Given that the Westminster parliament is packed full of Scots - can you explain why none of them have been overtaken by this 'inherent feeling of social justice'
to speak out on behalf of the thousands of their own countrymen - Yeah! Scots - who are languishing in European countries without one penny of assistance from the British government, never mind winter fuel allowance - or didn't you know that?

Does their 'inherent sense of social justice' only come into play after independence? Cat got their tongue in the meantime has it?

We're having whip rounds down here to help keep basic electricity going for pensioners in their 80s and in one case almost 90, with nothing more than a basic pension to keep them alive and no heating in temperatures that have sunk to minus 20. They spend all day and all night in bed with an electric blanket on to keep warm - and cost the government nothing except 160 pounds basic married pension a week - a pension which has been devalued by 25% in recent months.

One Scottish lady I know is 76 ad still cutting acres of grass every summer merely to be able to pay her winter bills - 90 pound a week pension doesn't go very far - and no, she can't afford to come back to Scotland.

We donate tins of food to a collection centre. These are not just English pensioners - some of them are Scottish - there's a thing!

They moved here 20 years and more ago, at a time when everyone said it was all rosy and Europe now - no one told them they were going to find themselves living in what the UK would define as a 'foreign country' one day.

So where will the UK pensioners living in Scotland be when the UK or what is left of it defines Scotland as a foreign country then?

Haven't heard a peep out of a single Scottish MP yet. That 'inherent feeling of social justice' is sure lying low at the moment.

Brian said...

I think the key to this question is when the claim for a particular benefit starts. It's obvious that someone living abroad cannot open a claim for jsa - they can count their NI contributions against the claim requirements in their new country of residence. Contributions- based JSA claims can be exported abroad in certain circumstances. Similarly, the contributions based elements of DLA and ESA can be exported and claimed for as long as one's health qualifies.
The EU regulation is 1408/71 and here and Commission of the European Communities v the European Parliament and the Council [2007] ECR I-8695 ruled that certain benefits should be payable to EEA citizens in the UK.

Brian said...

Here's an interesting article on some top-up benefits that can be claimed by British expats in France. It might be worth asking at the Mairie if there is a French version of Winter Fuel Payment that expats can claim if they didn't export their claim from the UK.

carol42 said...

I can't understand how your brother gets a UK pension if he didn't pay into it while working in Canada.My friend worked in Glasgow for 8 years before emigrating to Canada in the 60s. When she reached 60 she enquired about any pension entitlement in the UK and was told that without a minimum of 10 years employment she was not entitled to anything.

Brian said...

Here's the latest Parliamentary Briefing Paper on Winter Fuel Payments.
I have a cunning plan for Mrs Raccoon to claim WFP. She establishes habitual residence in the UK (three months is usually sufficient) starting from the end of June so that she is in the UK during the qualifying week, submits a claim and goes back to France to await the dosh.

carol42: did your friend reach her state pension age before 6 April 2010? If so the minimum was ten years for women and 11 for men to get the minimum (25% pension). Sorry.

carol42 said...

Yes Brian she did, though I still can't see how anyone would qualify at all if they had little or no contributations in this country, that surely cannot be right. I have never heard of it before anyway, perhaps someone can enlighten me?

subrosa said...

I get a pension Anna and because I worked over 42 years in total. The years I spent abroad still allow me my full pension.

I can't speak about Brits who live permanently abroad because I only know those who live half and half and have kept a home here. Some downsized their homes here in order to have capital to buy abroad.

It seems you've had a much harsher winter than here and I've, sadly, no answer about the Scotswoman who lives on £90 a week there in France.

I must mention quite a few people who lost all their savings in the Iceland financial collapse lived abroad and none received even an answer to their thousands of emails to the UK government, so I understand your anger.

Of course I can't be sure, but if Scotland was independent it would have a government who would protect the vulnerable.

Don't hold your breath to hear anything from any MP. If any Scot has family still living in Scotland I suggest they contact their MSP. Unfortunately English folk don't have the choice.

subrosa said...

Yes Brian, I believe DLA is paid to those abroad as I know someone who is a part-time resident in Spain yet receives it. Thanks for the links.

subrosa said...

Good link Brian and I hope Anna reads it.

subrosa said...

Carol, It's nearly 10 years ago now and I've forgotten all the ins and outs but if I recall he worked here for just over 2 years then studied at the Sorbonne for 6 years then Grenoble Uni to do his PhD for 2 years. When he was in France he was treated as a UK student studying abroad and thus managed to scrape the timing. I do remember he sent me various certificates etc which I had to take to Glasgow (he didn't trust them not to lose them).

His pension isn't much I don't think but it's better than nothing. We haven't discussed recently.

subrosa said...

Brian, I'll email her your findings.

subrosa said...

Oh Carol, I've just remembered. I think a couple of years work he did for a British company - even though he was living abroad - featured somewhere too.

He was refused initially but had done his homework. With hindsight I think his lengthy communications with the DWP were more of a project than anything else.

subrosa said...

Anna, you disappoint me by insulting my readers and I'm not prepared to have them described in that manner.

You've had only two people comment on the blog post yesterday, one twice and one four times - quite possibly because you engaged them in discussion. Whether they read my blog or not doesn't entitle you to insult them here.

Anonymous said...

Dear Subrosa,
I'm just as disappointed by the calibre of readers that read your post and decided to knee jerk their way down south having completely misread my post.
You have only read the posts which I left up on the site.
The foul mouthed sweetie who goes by the name of 'Shona', and 'Brigadoon', whoever they are, are out the back by the trash can where they can't offend anyone with their poor grasp of language - only the second time in a year I have had to moderate comments.
Neither of them had the slightest interest in the issue of pensions, British or otherwise, nor even a modicum of humour to see that the picture was labelled 'the British governments view of Aberdeen'.
Both of them following your lead in reading my post as ME making an attack on God's own country etc. etc. ad nausea.
Even if I thought 'north of Aberdeen' was a frozen wasteland and had failed to grasp the nuances of the perfection of life that would be achieved by Scotland once it was no longer held back by the albatross of Westminster and the English nation - it doesn't entitle your readers to insult me and call me a 'fecking English bitch' nor wish that I should drop dead....
I work hard on my blog to allow readers a place where those of many political views and hues can exchange views peacefully - I don't appreciate being turned into a version of the Glasgow music hall with cheap insults and rotten fruit being traded in place of debate.
You set this off with your misread assumption that my post was a commentary on the desirability or otherwise of Aberdeen, not a commentary on the vicious approach of the British government to those they deem to be living abroad - the knee jerkers have merely followed your lead.

subrosa said...

My first three paragraphs were written tongue in cheek Anna and I thought you, most of all, would realise that. It wasn't my intention to offend but to bring your points to the notice of my readers and also to add my own views on pensions.

I don't know those you mention and it's unfortunate they used language which upset you. I wouldn't tolerate that either.

I too work hard on my blog.

No, I didn't set this off at all. You set it off with your 'humour' about the wastelands north of Aberdeen. I only responded in a similar vein.

No person can be responsible for the reactions of others.

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