| LONDON, March 7
LONDON, March 7 Scottish pensions would be put
in danger if voters decide to split from Britain this year, a
senior British minister will say on Friday in the government's
latest attempt to persuade Scots to reject independence.
Danny Alexander, second-in-command at the finance ministry,
will say pensions held with Scottish firms would not be
protected by British state guarantees in the event of
independence and that a new Scottish-only backstop for savers
would be costly and less secure.
Alexander's warning comes little more than six months before
a referendum on whether Scotland should sever its 307-year tie
to the rest of Britain - something the British government is
campaigning hard to discourage.
An Ipsos-Mori poll this week showed 32 percent support for
independence, 57 percent against and 11 percent undecided.
London has focused much of its campaign so far on fiscal and
economic issues. Having ruled out the prospect of sharing
sterling with an independent Scotland, the government turned on
Friday to the impact of independence on Scots' savings.
"A vote for independence opens the flood gates to a sea of
uncertainty on currency, rates and regulation - all of which
puts the value of those life savings at risk," Alexander will
say, according to extracts of his speech.
The Scottish National Party hit back.
"An independent Scotland will be more able to afford
pensions than the rest of the UK, and all pensions will be paid
in full after independence," said Nicola Sturgeon, deputy first
minister of Scotland's devolved government.
Last week insurance and pensions firm Standard Life,
which has been based in Scotland for 189 years, became the first
major company to warn it could partly move out of the country in
the event of independence.
Alexander - a Scot - said other firms from Scotland's
well-developed financial services sector could follow.
"With a different regulatory system and a different currency
and different pensions protections, many companies would have no
choice but to relocate their businesses," he said.
Alexander also denied claims by Scottish nationalists that
London would soften its stance against a currency union after a
vote for independence.
"Our decision - taken in the best interests of Scotland and
the rest of the UK - is final," Alexander said. "No matter how
much of a racket they make, it isn't going to change."