More than 10 months have passed without the Scottish government providing further clarity on pensions issues highlighted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland (ICAS), the trade body has claimed.
Despite two reports from the pro-independence government, in a statement released by ICAS, it said there was still no defined protocol for how the UK and Scottish governments would engage with the EU on cross-border funding rules.
Defined benefit (DB) or hybrid schemes with members in both the UK and Scotland will be classed as cross-border funds in the event of independence.
However, under EU regulation, all cross-border funds must be immediately fully funded, potentially giving corporate DB schemes carrying deficits heavy financial burdens.
In September 2013, the Scottish government proposed discussions with the EU and the UK to undertake a full impact assessment and agree a three-year transitional arrangement for schemes.
However, the ICAS said the proposed three years was “wholly insufficient” given current funding arrangements between companies and schemes.
Another area of uncertainty, according to the ICAS, is the feasibility of an independent Scotland sharing the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) with the UK.
Under Scottish proposals, the government said it would mimic the UK’s pensions regulatory authority, but set up its own body.
However, it was suggested Scottish schemes would still be covered by the PPF and continue to fund this through the levy.
The ICAS said it was questionable how two regulators, two countries and one PPF would work in practice, especially as the interests of the two governments diverge.
The body said that, while the papers issued by the Scottish government moved the debate on pensions in independence forward, the more detailed aspects were important to deliver a separate pensions system.
It added: “The Scottish government’s scope to implement its policy agenda for pensions post-independence would depend on the outcome of any post-referendum negotiation. With that in mind, there are limitations on the degree of assurance the Scottish government can provide on what could eventually be delivered.”
The ICAS raised concerns over the complexity on whether the cost of entitlement to a state or public pension rested with Scotland or the UK, although it acknowledged the issue was being considered.
David Wood, ICAS executive director for technical policy and practice support, said the body understood not every question could be answered prior to the referendum.
However, he added: “Security in retirement is a significant issue for the Scottish public. Everyone has concerns over whether or not they have the appropriate arrangements to provide for their retirement.
“The ICAS has taken a neutral stance in the independence debate, but we will continue to call for answers to important questions to ensure the Scottish people are better informed.”