UK - More than 90% of union members belonging to the Scottish local government pension scheme (LGPS) have voted to accept proposals for a new scheme, which come into force from April 2009.

Unison, Scotland's largest local government union, revealed 95% of members had voted to accept the draft regulations for the new scheme - which were issued in February - after detailed negotiations resulted in the retention of a final salary element and an improved accrual rate.

In addition, 94% of members of the GMB union also agreed to the new scheme, which was developed following work by the tripartite Scottish Local Government Pension Advisory Group (SLOGPAG).

The draft regulations for the scheme - which closed to consultation on March 27 2008 - revealed features of the new LGPS include

a normal retirement age of 65; an increased lump sum death in service benefit, and a pension for co-habiting partners.

(See earlier IPE story: Scotland consults on LGPS draft regs)

Mike Kirby, Scottish convenor for Unison, said: "It is clear from the improvements that have been achieved, that it is possible to maintain and improve a decent final salary scheme which is fair to both employers and employees, provides a decent level of pension and is sustainable in overall cost."

In addition, Alex McLuckie, senior organiser for public services for GMB Scotland, said the proposed scheme is a "good outcome" for members, as the negotiations resulted in the maintenance of the "gold standard" - delivery of a final salary scheme.

"This new scheme will ensure the long term viability of the LGPS and in these days of uncertainty within the pension industry this is also good news for local government workers who really value their pension provision," added McLuckie.

Changes will be implemented by the Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) in April 2009.

However, this is a year later than changes to the equivalent scheme in England and Wales, because although occupational pension schemes are the responsibility of the UK government, Scottish ministers have 'executively-devolved powers' to allow them to make changes to schemes in Scotland, as long as the changes remain in line with UK and European primary legislation.

The decision to alter the Scottish LGPS follows the UK government's announcement in 2006 stating it intended to reform public service pensions to allow flexible retirement provisions, improved death-in-service benefits and better target ill-health provision.

As a result, the new look scheme - which includes a tiered contribution system for employees to avoid additional burdens for taxpayers - was introduced in England and Wales on April 1, alongside a new Policy Review Group which aims to keep employers and unions involved in scheme decisions.

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