NICOLA Sturgeon hit back at “nervous” Tories in a row over whether Westminster would continue to pay the pensions of older Scots in the wake of independence.

The First Minister railed against claims from the party that English taxpayers would be footing the bill for the pension pot in an independent Scotland.

It comes after SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford told ITV Border that Scots would have a right to receive a state pension after years of paying National Insurance contributions to the UK Treasury.

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And on Thursday, the row made it to the Holyrood chamber after Scots Tory Murdo Fraser asked the FM about the SNP position.

During FMQs, he said: “Is it really now the SNP position that pensions in an independent Scotland would be paid by taxpayers in England?”

The FM said Fraser should pay more attention to the UK Government’s position on the pension issue as it might “give him a bit of a shock”.

In 2014, the UK Government confirmed that those with "accumulated rights" would still receive their pension in the event of Scottish independence. 

Setting out her position on the pension argument, over shouting from Tory benches, the FM said: “The Tories are really really nervous about this argument.

The National:

The FM was forced to shout over jeering from Tory benches

"You can feel the discomfort coming from them because they know when the people of Scotland get the chance to escape Westminster governance and take our future into our own hands they are going to say yes to independence.

“When Scotland votes for independence, as was the case in 2014, the distribution of existing UK liabilities and assets, including those related to pensions will be subject to negotiation and Scotland will fully pay its way in that but the key point here is for those in receipt of pensions and it is what the Minister for pensions at the time in the UK Government, Steve Webb, confirmed.

“That people with accumulated rights would continue to receive the current levels of state pension in an independent Scotland.

“People will notice no difference or perhaps the difference they might notice is that an independent Scotland may be able to improve the level of pensions, rather than have as the UK does one of the lowest pension levels in the whole of the developed world.”

Research from the House of Commons library from June 2021 revealed UK pensions are the least generous in north west Europe by comparison to the average wage. While UK pensioners receive around a quarter (28%) of the average working wage, OAPs in Luxembourg and Austria receive 90% comparatively.

On Wednesday, Blackford told ITV Border that there is “precedence” as the issue was discussed in 2014.

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He added: "The Scottish Government would take on the responsibility of its pensioners. Let's not forget we have the lowest state pension in Western Europe at the moment.

"Pensioners are being short-changed. It's Westminster that has removed the Triple Lock.

"The point is, it's an obligation on the UK Government to meet the commitment to pensioners who have paid National Insurance contributions.

"They have paid the right to receive that pension. You can argue about the mechanism over how that is transferred, and that will be debated, but it's right the UK Government meets its right to pensioners, regardless of where they are.

The National:

The row reputed after Blackford's ITV Border interview

"If you or I, as UK citizens, go and live in another European country then our right to that UK pension remains.

"Scottish pensioners have that right. They have paid National Insurance over a long period to get that. That will remain."

ITV Border told Blackford that NI payments cover only existing pensions, to which he responded: "You are paying National Insurance as an entitlement to a future pension.

"That's the whole point of the principle. You pay into a National Insurance fund, and the UK is responsible for the disbursement of that, but that's a right to a UK pension - no ifs, no buts, about that."

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We previously told how five out of six Scottish Tory MPs voted to scrap the triple lock on pensions which will leave OAPs £520 worse off this year.

It is estimated that pensioners could be worse off by £2600 over the next five years.

The move meant Tories abandoned a manifesto pledge to keep to triple lock in place.

The triple-lock guarantees that pensions grow in line with whichever is highest out of earnings, inflation or 2.5%.

But the Bill suspends the earnings element for 2022/23 due to fears of an unaffordable rise caused by the impact of the coronavirus crisis on wages.