by Colin Campbell
“WHAT about my pension,” an elderly relative asked an SNP canvasser on his doorstep before last December’s General Election. “What assurances will I have on that?”
“Oh, the UK Government will continue paying your pension,” came the reply. “That’s guaranteed. After all, they pay the pension to people living abroad, France, Spain, everywhere. You should have no worries about that.”
I reported here on that exchange at the time, and on my frustration that my relative had merely nodded in acceptance and let him get away with it. The reason the UK Government pays pensions to these people living abroad is because they are UK citizens. An independent Scotland with a hard border and passport controls would effectively be a foreign country, where such a convenient pensions’ arrangement would not only be inapplicable, it would be outlandish. I still don’t know if the character in his fluorescent jacket and SNP logo spinning this deception was a barefaced liar or a complete moron. He could have been either.
Under new plans just announced the UK state pension is due to rise by nearly £20 a month. That’s peanuts to many current wage earners. But it makes a difference to those directly affected, especially those who are struggling to get by.
The SNP/Nationalists will have none of it, of course. They dismiss the UK pension as “the lowest in Europe” – another invention or at least misrepresentation – and have already started claiming in an independent Scotland it would be raised to £300 a week.
There is, of course, not a shred of detail on how this would be paid for, in the same way as there’s not a shred of detail on how anything would be paid for.
At the moment their only preoccupation is denouncing the Tories for their supposed coronavirus callousness while holding out the begging bowl for an endless supply of free money – on top of the furlough billions already paid out – from the UK Treasury.
Nationalist super-brain Andrew Wilson has already produced reports outlining the financial realities of independence and has urged candour in being honest with people about the pitfalls and hardships it would bring as well as the prospective benefits he claims would follow, over a period of 10-15 years.
He expressed his views again in a wide-ranging interview last Sunday and as a result has become the most reviled man in the nationalist movement, denounced by some as “a Unionist plant” posing as a supporter of independence while actually doing everything he can to prevent it.
His multitude of critics just don’t want to hear the truth.
The most common theme among them is: “Get independence done and we’ll worry about finance later.”
That is what makes these people so impossible to reason with. They genuinely don’t care about the financial impact on people’s lives as long as they pull off their own life’s dream.
At the moment the SNP/Nationalists are riding high in the polls as a result of the widespread unpopularity of Boris Johnson, allied to the perception that Nicola Sturgeon has – despite her misjudgements – generally handled the coronavirus better. I think many of us can agree on that, although it’s much easier for her to make “tough decisions” because she knows money will flow across the border to pay for them.
But fixation on the virus and a dislike of Boris Johnson will not last for ever and when the focus swings on to the financial impact of independence on people’s daily lives – on currency, on mortgages, on savings, on jobs, and investments – gloating nationalists will have a mountain of questions to answer.
They have had six years to provide an answer on what currency an independent Scotland would use, and they couldn’t even do that.
Andrew Wilson has said the pound should remain in use before transition to a “Scots currency” over a period of 10 years.
And he’s been ripped apart for it by those who assert it would leave Scotland as financial lackeys of the English. That is, by critics who have no answers themselves.
“Let’s get independence done and we’ll worry about the finances later” may fit the agenda of utterly reckless zealots.
But it’s not going to be enough to convince the majority of Scots, including many of those who have expressed in these uniquely strange times a preference for independence. Not when they start seriously scrutinising the multitude of risks targeted directly on their lifestyles and household finances.
I haven’t reached pension age quite yet but when I get there I take it as an absolute guarantee that what I’m promised in pension assessments I will receive.
And that’s the biggest concern of all those either at or in sight of pension age – that the assurance of a basic monthly income would be ripped from under them when the true costs of independence hit home, as all too soon it would.
Hopefully we are still years away from another referendum and having to worry about such financial calamity.
But when some SNP clown comes to your door in the run-up to the Holyrood elections and tells you that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will continue paying the pensions of those of us living in “a foreign country”, make a point of exposing and embarrassing him for the moron or outright liar he is.