Embedded in its UK-wide pensions practice, Pinsent Masons LLP is a respected player in the Scottish pensions law market and a regular advisor to employers, trustees and funds. Trustees routinely retain Ruth Tobias to assist with defined benefit pension schemes, while she has recently also handled a number of pension scheme buy-ins and buy-outs. Trustees and corporates benefit from senior associate Cameron McCulloch‘s expertise in securing pension liabilities with an insurer. Both are key members of Ian Gordon‘s team; he and the team as a whole handle the full spectrum of pensions law with other recent instructions including the transfer to DC and DB master trusts and newer consolidation vehicles, security structures and investments as well as pensions litigation.
Pensions in Scotland
Pinsent Masons LLP
‘Unrivalled combination of expertise, trustworthiness and pragmatism. Incredibly dependable and easy to work with.’
‘A great responsive and commercial client-facing team delivering excellent technical legal input communicated clearly and simply so that clients can make good decisions to achieve good outcomes.’
‘Ian Gordon is the ideal adviser with a realistic solutions-driven approach combined with excellent communication skills and always very responsive. He is an excellent team player.’
‘Ian Gordon was one of the first pension lawyers in Scotland and the breadth and depth of his knowledge and experience is exceptional and unparalleled and it shows in how he engages with clients and others to achieve good outcomes.’
‘I work with Ruth Tobias and Cameron McCulloch in particular. Both are technically excellent and backed by a very experienced team of pensions lawyers who can be called upon when needed.’
‘Alison Shackleton is great to work with – a clear communicator with good instincts, very responsive and solutions driven with excellent client skills.’
‘Ian Gordon is exceptionally knowledgeable, highly trustworthy and extremely pragmatic.’
‘Cameron McCulloch is a rising star in the industry. Trustees respect and trust him to guide them through the most complex issues.’
Plumbing & Mechanical Services (UK) Industry Pension Scheme
Babcock Naval Services Pension Scheme
HBG GA Pension Scheme
Barnett & Hall Holdings Pension Scheme
Edrington Group Pension Scheme/ Highland Distillers Pension Scheme
Trustees of the University of Aberdeen Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme
UPM-Kymmene UK Pension Scheme
Aberdeen City Council as Administering Authority of the North East Scotland Pension Fund
Capita Pension and Life Assurance Scheme
The Trustee of the Franklin Templeton Global (UK) Pension Scheme
John Swire & Sons Pension Scheme
Drake & Scull Retirement Benefits Plan
Don & Low Group Pension Fund Trustees
- Advising the trustees of Plumbing Pensions, which is one of the UK’s largest non-associated multi-employer pension schemes, on a variety of issues, including procedures for dealing with section 75 debts, and in particular the application of Condition I in cases where there is doubt about recoverability.
- Appointed to advise Capita Pension and Life Assurance Scheme on a project to assess and document the benefits across all of its over 200 sections.
- On behalf of the Babcock Naval Services Pension Scheme trustee, the team negotiated an agreement among the trustee, the scheme employers and the MoD setting out the terms on which the scheme would be closed to benefit accrual and the terms on which the scheme will be wound up.
Shepherd and Wedderburn
Routinely retained by well-known corporates and pension trustees, Shepherd and Wedderburn demonstrates particular expertise in the financial services, higher education and energy sectors. This steady stream of mandates is not least due to the team’s wide-ranging pensions law expertise spanning defined benefit and defined contribution pension schemes, Guaranteed Minimum Pension (GMP) equalisation requirements, investment portfolios, benefit transfers and governance issues. The practice is jointly led from Edinburgh by consultant Andrew Holehouse, Louisa Knox and Edwin Mustard and includes senior associate Kirsty Headden, who has particular experience in historic equalisation and scheme amendments, liability management exercises and statutory debt implications. Senior associate Richard Jones, who is particularly well versed in public sector pension matters, is another key member of the team.
‘Strengths: quality of advice, they are always spot on.’
‘Strong industry knowledge and provide clear guidance.’
‘For depth and breadth this pensions team is unrivalled in Scotland.’
‘Consistency of the team is helpful when it comes to understanding the intricacies of the company’s pension scheme.’
‘Always quick to respond, this team is consistently a pleasure to deal with.’
‘Louisa Knox has the finest legal brain in pensions and is a joy to work with.’
‘Kirsty Headden knows her stuff and is excellent on tricky and complex areas like GMP equalisation.’
The Standard Life Staff Pension Scheme
ScottishPower Pension Scheme
Scottish Amicable Staff Pension Scheme
The Miller Group Pension Scheme
A.G. Barr p.l.c. Retirement Benefits Scheme
University of Edinburgh Staff Benefits Scheme
The University of St Andrews Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme
Universal Music Group Pension Scheme
Belmond (UK) 2003 Pension Scheme
Scottish Hydro-Electric Pension Scheme (SSE)
- Advised the trustees of the University of St Andrews Pension and Life Assurance Scheme on the legal aspects of the scheme’s investment portfolio.
- Advised the trustees of Belmond UK Limited 2003 Pension Scheme on the impact of the Lloyds case on GMP equalisation and the steps necessary to implement the ruling.
- Advised the trustee of the A.G. Barr p.l.c. (2008) Pension and Life Assurance Scheme in relation to the closure of the defined contribution section and transfer of accrued benefits and ongoing pension provision to an external master trust arrangement, including advice as to trustee’s duties and preservation of transitional tax protections for members.
Brodies LLP is well placed to guide clients through projects aimed at derisking defined benefit pension schemes alongside group restructurings and the move to master trust arrangements. While advising trustees forms the backbone of the team’s workload, it also advises employers, public sector pension funds as well as several councils. Its public sector capabilities were further strengthened with the arrival of legal director Mairi Carlin from Pinsent Masons LLP in 2021, while associate Jennifer Crawford is routinely called upon by private sector sponsoring employers and trustee boards. Both are key members of the team led by the Edinburgh-based Juliet Bayne, who handles all aspects of pensions law. Expertise in corporate support work complements this offering.
‘The team have been very responsive throughout what has been a fast-paced and ever changing transaction, not only highlighting how changes can impact pension risk, but also how it affects other commercial aspects of the deal.’
‘They endeavor to find the most efficient solution to an issue that meets the legislative requirements, whilst not being overly onerous, and which takes into account the views and challenges faced by all of the parties involved. Overall a pleasure to work with.’
‘They offer a personable approach and deliver clear, concise advice followed by transparent and efficient billing for excellent value.’
‘Juliet Bayne is a breath of fresh air – personable and yet calls a spade a spade; very knowledgeable and suitably bold in getting her views across. She is also politely relentless in seeing things through to a conclusion.’
‘Both Juliet Bayne and Mairi Carlin have acted as really good sounding boards when we have had challenging decisions to present.’
‘Mairi Carlin: Responsive, technical expertise, clear advice.’
‘Jennifer Crawford: Absolutely top-class, stand-out performance in the way that she handled, negotiated and delivered much of the detail.’
‘Juliet Bayne brings excellent knowledge and understanding of the pensions industry to any trustee discussions. She is professional, approachable and delivers time and again.’
BPI Pension Trustees Limited (Trustee of the British Polythene Pension Scheme)
Trustees of the James Walker (Leith) Retirement Benefits Scheme
Menzies Pension Fund (Trustees of the John Menzies plc defined benefit pension fund)
Trustees of the Howden Group Pension Plan
Trustees of the Scottish Council for Development & Industry (SCDI) Pension Fund
Morris & Spottiswood Limited
North East Scotland Pension Fund/Aberdeen City Council
Trustees of the Aon McMillen Retirement Benefits Scheme
Trustees of the AES Ballylumford Pension Scheme
Lothian Pension Fund
- Provided advice to the trustees of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) Pension Fund (and the Pension Protection Fund) in respect of a proposed compromise of pension debt due to the imminent insolvency of SCDI, an historically significant and influential independent membership network.
- Advised the trustees of the Howden Group Pension Plan on GMP equalisation and conversion in connection with targeted buy-out with Legal & General.
- Provided BPI Pension Trustees Limited, the trustee of the British Polythene Pension Scheme, with wide-ranging advice on a variety of post-merger issues.
Burness Paull LLP has a strong profile assisting corporates with the pensions aspects of M&A, private equity investments and refinancing. Sarah Phillips is a key contact in this space and is often supported by senior associate Liam Young. Besides corporate support work, the team led by the Glasgow-based Margaret Meehan is also well placed to advise trustee client boards on the implementation of derisking strategies, liability management and governance. Deborah Adam is rated for her financial services industry expertise.
‘I find their strength lies in the delivery of advice and that this is generally relevant and pragmatic.’
‘The firm is superb at pensions work. It is a niche area and specialists like this are hard to find.’
‘The team are all very practical and present the advice very clearly and in a way it can be easily communicated to the business.’
‘Excellent technical knowledge coupled with the ability to make complex areas understandable for trustees without a legal background.’
‘I particularly value the support our firm receives from Deborah Adam and her team. She has great industry knowledge, her team’s advice is always written in ‘plain English’ and her team’s availability is excellent.’
‘Margaret Meehan has a fantastic knowledge of her subject, but her warmth, personality and down-to-earth approach means that she quickly gains the trust and confidence of senior stakeholders.’
‘Liam Young is incredibly smart and quick.’
‘Sarah Phillips is very responsive, knowledgeable and commercial and explains the key issues and risks clearly. Our go-to pensions expert.’
The Pension SuperFund
Trustees of each of the Beckman Coulter Pension Plan; the Jacobs Manufacturing Company Limited Retirement Benefits Scheme; the Leica Pension Scheme; and the Willett International Limited Pension and Death Benefits Plan
Trustee of the Aegon UK Staff Retirement and Death Benefit Scheme
Melbourne Bidco Limited
PAI Partners SAS
International Paper Company
Subsea 7 S.A
The Trustees of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Superannuation Scheme
- Avised Melbourne Bidco Limited on the pensions aspects of its acquisition of Travis Perkins Plc’s plumbing and heating business.
- The team has been advising PAI Partners on the pensions aspects of the purchase of PepsiCo, Inc.’s European juice businesses following the acquisition of those juice brands in North America.
- Advised International Paper Company on the UK pensions aspects of the hive-off of its printing paper business into a new standalone corporate group, Sylvamo.
DWF's strength lies in transactional work but the team is also well placed to assist trustee clients with benefit transfers, scheme wind-ups and liability management, among other matters. Clients also benefit from compliance and contract management services provided by the firm's sister businesses DWF Mindcrest and DWF Connected Services. June Crombie heads up the practice from Glasgow; her wide-ranging pensions law expertise extends to pension counter fraud matters.
Other key lawyers:
‘The pensions team is able to put clients at ease by their ability to explain complex pension matters in clear and straightforward terms.’
‘I have confidence that any issue they deal with is done with full care and diligence to ensure the right outcomes for us.’
‘The DWF team in Scotland have significant experience in this sector, and are well regarded for providing detailed advice and providing a thorough service in this area.’
‘The longevity of the partners in the team and the length of time in which clients remain with DWF is testimony to the quality of service they provide.’
‘Colin Greig has a first-class pensions mind but is so humble in his application of his pensions knowledge with clients. He is a pleasure to work with and a true advisor to his clients.’
‘June Crombie and Colin Greig have a long-standing and well deserved reputation for providing well thought through and detailed advice on pensions issues.’
‘I work with June Crombie, and she has a great deal of experience which shows clearly in her work. She is very client-focused, and is also always very pleasant to deal with.’
Sponge Group Limited
Cove Communities UK Investments, LP
Finsbury Food Group
AURELIUS Investments Limited
Glennon Brothers Timber Limited
CIGNA 2000 UK Pension Plan
Cornwall County Council
Mattioli Woods plc
Aliter Capital LLP
- Advised Cove Communities UK Investments, LP on pensions issues pertainig to the corporate acquisition of a substantial leisure business.
- Advising the purchaser AURELIUS Investments Limited on all pensions issues in connection with the acquisition of AutoRestore Ltd from Belron International Limited, including a bespoke flexible apportionment arrangement entered into in connection with the cessation of the participation of AutoRestore Ltd in the defined benefit pension scheme.
- Advising the digital learning provider Sponge Group on its acquisition of Idox Compliance from Idox plc to expand its online library of ready-to-go compliance-related content in the UK, Germany and Belgium.
MacRoberts LLP routinely assists trustees with buy-ins and buy-outs, asset transfers, scheme liabilities, investments and governance issues, while also receiving an increasing number of instructions from third sector players; these mandates are often led by James Keith but he also acts for other clients. He is a member of the team headed by Martyn Shaw, who has recently led advice on asset-backed funding arrangements for defined benefit pension schemes and group restructurings, among other matters.
‘The team at MacRoberts are highly engaged in seeking the best possible outcome for their clients and they work collaboratively with other professional advisers to achieve this objective.’
‘The pensions team are very pragmatic in their approach to advising trustee boards and employers.’
‘A wide range of skill sets and experience as well as excellent legal knowledge means that you can always rely on the input as being detailed and technically accurate.’
‘The team are committed, persistent and engaged in achieving successful outcomes. The team are personable and easy to work with.’
‘This is a strong, experienced and stable team, meaning clients get consistency of service over time.’
‘Excellent Scottish team of 3 led by Martyn Shaw – technically very sound and responsive delivering clear and concise advice and support. A pleasure to work with.’
‘Martyn Shaw is unflappable, astute and technically excellent with very good instincts.’
‘Martyn, James and Richard provide a very personable and approachable service. There is no hard sell and they work sensibly to find solutions rather than simply identifying problems.’
Scottish Government – Transport Scotland
The trustees of the Noble Drilling (Land Support) Limited Retirement Benefits Scheme
The trustee of the Arriva Passenger Services Pension Plan
The trustee of the Arriva London North and Arriva London South Pension Scheme
The trustee of the SIG plc Retirement Benefits Plan
ASD Limited, part of the Kloeckner & Co. metals group
The trustee of the Martin Currie Retirement and Death Benefits Plan
The trustees of the Babtie Group Ltd Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme, relating to the Jacobs group of companies
The trustee of the Edinburgh Airport Pension Plan
The trustee of the T.P.S. Benefits Scheme, relating to the TÜV SÜD group of companies
The trustees of the Peter Vardy Employee Benefits Plan (1984)
Dorchester Group Limited
The trustees of the LS Starrett Company Limited Retirement Benefits Scheme
The trustees of the Norson Group Limited Pension Scheme
The trustees of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Limited Retirement Benefits Scheme
The trustees of the ANM Group Limited Pension and Life Assurance Fund
The trustees of the Denholm Pension Scheme
The trustees of the Johnstons of Elgin Pension Scheme
The trustees of the Airdrie Savings Bank Pension Scheme
The trustees of Plean Precast Limited Pension and Life Assurance Scheme
The trustees of the Velan Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme
Dynamic EMS Limited
The trustees of the Dynamic Logic Limited Pension Scheme (1985)
The trustees of the Ardtornish Farm Pension Scheme (1981)
Student Loans Company
- Advised the trustee of the Chivas Brothers Pension Scheme on the establishment of a £140m parent company guarantee in the scheme’s favour, and on the guarantee’s certification with the Pension Protection Fund.
- Advised the trustees of a UK defined benefit pension scheme in connection with a multinational music technology group’s restructuring exercise, involving the substitution of the scheme’s sponsoring employer, apportionment of scheme liabilities, an amendment of an existing guarantee, the provision of an additional group company guarantee and obtaining supporting overseas legal opinions.
- Completed a consolidation and update of the trust deed and rules of the Martin Currie Retirement and Death Benefit Plan.
CMS has a focus on trustee work but also assists employer and public sector clients with a wide range of issues, such as scheme administration, the transfer of defined contribution pension schemes to master trusts, GMP reconciliation and transactional matters. Alistair Hill is a key contact for corporate support work; he jointly heads the practice with Jae Fassam, who covers the full spectrum of pensions law, including member disputes.
‘Excellent prompt briefings and webinars. Otherwise – just good people.’
‘Questions are answered in a helpful way and the team take time to really understand what the question really is and go out of their way to ensure you have the answer you really want.’
‘Jae Fassam works really well with the pensions, team, the trustees and their other advisors resulting in a very cohesive team.’
‘Jae Fassam understands the issue of working with the pensions regulator and negotiating with the company.’
Trustee of the De La Rue Pension Scheme / Trustee of the De La Rue Defined Contribution Pension Plan
Trustees of the Helaba (London) Pension and Life Assurance Plan
Highlands & Islands Airports Pension Scheme
The IPM SIPP
Lothian Pension Fund / City of Edinburgh Council
Macfarlane Group plc
Northern Ireland Water
The Pension Protection Fund
Trustee of the Samsung Electronics Manufacturing (UK) Ltd Pension & Life Assurance Scheme
Scotia Gas Networks Pension Scheme
Tayside Pension Fund
The Pensions Trust (TPT)
University of Glasgow
- Acting for the trustees of the De La Rue Pension scheme, as well as their separate DC pension scheme; providing advice on all matters relating to the day-to-day running of the schemes as well as scheme projects.
- Assisting the Lothian Pension Fund on a range of legal issues including advising on an exit strategy for dealing with employers leaving the fund, procurement and data protection.
- Advised the international insurance and financial services group Sanlam on the pensions aspects of their disposal of Sanlam Life and Pensions to Chesnara.