For the first time in a generation, the BMA is to ballot on industrial action.
Why? Because they feel totally let down after agreeing to major changes to the NHS pension scheme less than four years ago to make it sustainable in the long term. The NHS scheme, therefore, is in a very healthy state.
Not only are employer contributions capped so that any future deficit would be met by the members, not the taxpayer, but it provides a £2bn annual surplus to the Treasury. The UK Government refuses to acknowledge this, is demanding NHS workers pay hundreds of thousands of pounds more, and now expects them to work until they are nearly 70.
Although a matter largely for the Treasury, the Scottish Government runs the pension scheme north of the border. While recognising a need for a degree of public sector pension reform it disagrees with the Coalition Government proposals but will follow the UK line to increase employee contributions only because ministers have been advised that the Scottish block grant will be reduced by an equivalent sum if it does not implement them in Scotland.
The Scottish Government still has the opportunity to look for other sources of funding to protect its own NHS staff from this tax on healthcare workers.
It is essential that MSPs are aware of this vital issue since, without resolution, there is likely to be a significant period of unrest by public sector workers that will impact on services in Scotland.
Dr Brian Keighley
Chairman, BMA Scotland