Ms R Cunningham
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs
The Scottish Government
St Andrew’s House
15 November 2013
Thank you for your letter dated 24 October 2013 in which you set out the Scottish Government’s opposition to the way that UK Government is handling the public sector pension situation.
We are extremely disappointed that despite our presenting substantial evidence to support our concerns on the issues contained in our trade dispute, the majority of them remain unresolved and firefighters throughout the UK still face an unworkable and unsustainable pension scheme.
You have made it clear that despite your concerns around the normal pension age and contribution-related issues in our trade dispute, you feel unable to resolve these independently of Westminster Government.
I recognise the fact that you indicate that in an independent Scotland the pension terms of Scottish firefighters would be revisited. You will be aware that the FBU has voted at our conference not to currently take a stance on the referendum. We have also explained our concerns remain valid regardless of whichever outcome is determined in the referendum and regardless of the government we are talking to.
The recent Scottish proposal which addressed two points and provided improvements on two others was a welcome intervention and displayed the fact that through real negotiations, improvements can be made. In response to these proposals Scottish FBU members agreed not to take strike action at this time. You will be aware that this was not the case elsewhere and our members in England and Wales have taken strike action on four occasions to date.
However, even with the improved position in Scotland you will recognise that our issues remain unresolved and that has been discussed frankly between both sides in recent meetings. The FBU has continued to try and resolve this dispute through negotiation but unfortunately we have been unable to influence Westminster government to the degree whereby a settlement is possible.
As a result of recent discussions with the fire service national employers in relation to the ‘No Job No Pension’ element of our dispute, we have presented Brandon Lewis with a proposed draft regulation for the 2015 scheme which is designed around the principles agreed with Scottish Government and would provide the guarantee we require. In a recent conversation with Scottish civil servants we suggested that a regulation outlining this principle should also be included in the Scottish 2015 scheme. That discussion confirmed that this draft regulation would merely confirm the principles already set out
We would be keen to discuss the issue of a regulation with you or your representatives and I would appreciate your views. The draft regulation (which I attach) has been drawn up with legal advice, although I appreciate that you would clearly wish to consider all implications of such a measure.
I look forward to your response and hope that through negotiations we can achieve a pension that is workable and affordable for firefighters.