ASA rejects Unionist complaints over independence campaign’s pensions billboards

Believe in Scotland’s current nationwide billboard campaign highlighting the fact that the Westminster government pays the worst pension in the developed world has clearly upset unionist campaigners.

Last week we were contacted by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to inform us that they had received multiple complaints claiming that our statement was not true. Given that it is 100% accurate we were not particularly concerned.  

Our billboards, which feature four designs and have been running on 98 screens across Scotland, do seem to have provoked a concerted complaints campaign, which demonstrates just how two-faced leading unionists activists can be.

It was a disgraceful Better Together campaign tactic in 2014 to tell pensioners that their miserly low UK state pension was at threat from independence when in fact the risk of reduction is now far greater because we remained part of the UK.    

Let's be clear: the UK can afford better pensions and can afford to end pensioner poverty. That is clearly true because every other nation in the developed world is able to do just that. It is simply a fact that the UK government has a policy of keeping state pensions low so that people are forced to pay into private pensions, boosting the pensions fund sector and the City of London. However not everyone CAN afford to do that. The poorer sections of society – those who are disabled, sick and unable to work, who have been made redundant and have experienced unemployment – can’t pay into large private pensions and therefor have to make do with the worst state pension in the developed world (as a percentage of final earnings) just to boost the profits of the City of London.

An independent Scotland will need to raise pensions slowly as the economy starts to grow again after we cast off the economic straitjacket of London-based decision making.  However, the state pension is so bad even doubling it would not be enough to match the EU average.  

We are always willing to defend our claims to the hilt and here is a copy of the evidence we sent to the ASA to back our insistence that the UK government pays the worst state pension in the developed world. 

Our evidence to the ASA


I can confirm that Business for Scotland Ltd (BfS) is the organisation that is running the Believe in Scotland campaign and that I am your point of contact. Please see my contact details in the footer of this email.

BfS is committed to the highest standards in its advertising statements and we completely believe our statements in the pensions advert are true and fair. We also suspect that all of our adverts will be reported to you, not because they are inaccurate but because the complaints will be politically motivated. We are, however, more than happy to work with you to clarify and even change any wordings and aims if you advise that they should be clarified etc.

The statement that the UK pays the lowest state pension in the developed world is based on data provided by the OECD which is essentially the world's largest think tank and one of the most respected sources of economic data.

You can find the comparative data here and on that site you can run other relative comparisons.

Please also see the image below which is the key table used to support our claim.

The net replacement rate is defined as the individual net pension entitlement divided by net pre-retirement earnings, taking into account personal income taxes and social security contributions paid by workers and pensioners. It measures how effectively a pension system provides a retirement income to replace earnings, the main source of income before retirement. The aforementioned definition is from the OECD website. This is the best international comparator for pensions as it relates to final earnings and therefore, the comparative cost of living. This signifies the drop in wealth from earning the pension in each nation.

The countries listed include developing nations and also EU and OECD member nations. South Africa comes out worse than the UK but is considered to be a developing nation and not yet a fully developed country.

The OECD recognises members to be developed and South Africa isn't a full member.

Some points below:

·  The UN has recognised South Africa as a developing economy (p. 146).

·  South Africa is not a member of the OECD (instead, South Africa is an Associate in 6 OECD Bodies and Projects, and a Participant in 15).

·  South Africa receives official development assistance (ODA) from the OECD.

So, we have described the Developed world as defined by membership of The OECD.  Also the Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers: Noun : the industrialized and economically advanced countries of the world collectively – Also called: First World, global north.

The advert's goal is not to sell anything but rather to inform and educate and therefore on the advert we supply a link for more information where everything that I have stated above is explained. We believe that the claims made are reasonable conclusions to draw from the available data and defined in a way that is right and proper and, therefore, informative and educational rather than misleading in any way. We also believe that given the restrictions on words and readability that we have conveyed sufficient information on the adverts.

We are at your disposal should you wish any further clarifications and happy to tweak the adverts if you think they can be made clearer in any way. Please also acknowledge that the above information is provided to help you with your research into the complaints. However, as we do not yet know the wording or nature of the complaints the above does not constitute our official response to the complaints themselves.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp 

On behalf of Business for Scotland Ltd and the Believe in Scotland campaign.


As you can see there is no doubt pensioner poverty in Scotland is caused deliberately by the UK government policy of paying the worst pension in the developed world in order to increase private pension fund profits in the City of London.

The ASA was not moved to agree with the complainers that the adverts should be removed nor that in this case - given the nature of the claims in the advert - that they had the power to do so.  Our adverts remain in prominent positions on main through roads and key routes leading to supermarkets (which are still open during lockdown). The Truth is still out there.