Scots ‘Yes’ Vote May Cost Pension Funds Billions

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Scots workers could find their retirement savings locked up in a multibillion pound black hole if the referendum is won by campaigners calling for independence.

From the first day of a new, independent Scotland, which would no longer be in the European Union, employers in EU states would have to fully fund cross-border pensions.

Almost 2 million workers in Scotland are employed by multinational or cross-border firms who would have the stark choice of pulling out of Scotland, forming a new Scottish pension scheme or pumping in up to an estimated £225 billion to fund existing schemes.

Either way, the cost to employers would be huge and could result in swathes of closures and massive redundancies.

Scots expats are already upset that the government has chosen not to hear their voice in the vote for independence in September, but now have little time to protect their retirement savings.

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Second class pensions

Those expats who do not live in another UK country could consider protecting their pension funds in a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS) up until referendum day on September 1.

The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) says the EU directive needs final ratification by ministers but effectively means redefining workplace pensions in Scotland overnight.

James Walsh, NAPF’s EU & International Policy Lead said: “Creating hundreds of new pension schemes would be expensive and involve legal problems unravelling existing pension contracts.

“The worry is retirement savers would end up with second-class pensions offering less generous terms and many firms might consider axing workers to cover the costs and reduce the problem.

“If the directive does go ahead, employees will lose one way or another because their funds and their jobs will pay for the changes.

“I can see many employers with a few workers in Scotland just closing up completely or moving those workers into another pension arrangement.”

Under siege

The pension schemes of hundreds of firms would be affected by an independence vote.

The Scottish government has not commented on the possible problems of the EU directive on pensions, but are said to be feeling under siege as the financial and economic issues relating to an independent Scotland become clearer.

The British government’s refusal to let Scotland be part of the Pound and implied threats from large employers to pull out of the country are undermining the yes vote.

The latest poll shows 41% will vote ‘yes’, 46% ‘no’ and 14% don’t know which way to go.

Adding expats voters into the mix could alter the margins and a group of wealthy expats are reportedly preparing a High Court challenge against their exclusion from the vote on the grounds of cost.

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