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Sturgeon urged to step in amid dispute over university pensions

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has called for the government to underwrite a disputed scheme.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has urged the government to underwrite a pension scheme at the centre of strikes by university workers.

Mr Rennie called on Nicola Sturgeon to step in to the dispute during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are undertaking 14 days of action in the coming weeks.

The dispute centres on proposals put forward by Universities UK for changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

Employers argue the pension scheme is £6 billion in deficit, while the union
says the proposals would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse
off in retirement.

Mr Rennie said: “Lecturers are not well paid and it is surely not fair that their pensions would be cut by £10,000 a year with the proposed changes.

“It has been suggested that the UK and Scottish Governments should step in to underwrite the scheme and to protect the pensions.

“Scottish Universities are the responsibility of the Scottish Government so will the First Minister agree to this proposal to underwrite the scheme to stop this strike and protect the pensions of university staff?”

Ms Sturgeon said she would consider the points raised by Mr Rennie but added: “This is the responsibility of universities to resolve and I would expect to see universities resolve it.”

Emphasising that universities are autonomous institutions, she added: “It is not possible for the Scottish Government to dictate to them in terms of issues like this.”

She added: “This particular pension scheme is also not a Scottish Government-funded pension scheme.

“All of that said I do absolutely understand the position that university lecturers and staff are taking and I sympathise with that position.”

Ms Sturgeon said higher education minister Shirley-Anne Somerville had written to university principals and the government was working “to encourage dialogue and settlement of this issue in order that those working in our universities are treated fairly”.

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