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Docs Get Ready to Fight

The British Medical Association is poised to ballot its members on industrial action for the first time in 40 years. Under the Dept. of Health plans, doctors' pension contributions would increase immediately by up to 2.4%, with continued increases over the next two years. It also wants to raise the retirement age to 68 and end the final salary scheme for hospital doctors. Although the DoH proposals are intended to apply to NHS workers throughout the UK, Scotland has its own devolved NHS pension scheme which is overseen by the Scottish Public Pensions Authority. However, if the Scottish Government decided to break with the reforms it is likely Holyrood would have to pick up the tab for any shortfall.

Dr Dean Marshall, outgoing chairman of the BMA's Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said doctors north of the Border had been let down by Holyrood's inaction and the Scottish Government's "complicity" with Westminster on the issue.

Dr Marshall said: "Is it fair for NHS staff to be taxed for the Government's failures to properly regulate the banking sector? And while the Scottish Government argues it does not agree with these plans it appears to be going along with the UK Government and is therefore complicit in taxing public-sector workers for the failures of the private sector. Scottish ministers could seek to do something different and I urge them again to find that solution – not just invite us to new talks"

Dr Marshall said doctors were unhappy that pension reforms were being "foisted" on them just four years after they agreed substantial changes to their package.

He added: "We agreed to tiered contributions where higher earners contributed more than lower paid workers. We agreed to the increased retirement age of 65 and we agreed to a cap on employer contributions so that the taxpayer would not pay for any future shortfall in the scheme. These changes worked and the NHS Pension Scheme is in surplus to the Treasury to the tune of £2 billion, and this is projected to continue into the future."

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