Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond with David Cameron at the men's Wimbledon final last year. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Salmond plays the class card against Cameron with Eton jibe

The Scottish First Minister says that "while I was compiling the oil and gas index, David Cameron was still fooling around on the playing fields of Eton".

Even during a highly technical discussion of north sea oil on the Today programme this morning, Alex Salmond managed to find room for a spot of class war. "In the 1980s, while I was compiling the oil and gas index, David Cameron was still fooling around on the playing fields of Eton," he jibed (a remark reminiscient of Gordon Brown's declaration in 2009 that "your inheritance tax policy seems to have been dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton"). 

The line is a reminder of the extent to which Salmond believes that attacking the Tories in general (the party holds just one of the 59 Westminster seats in Scotland) and Cameron (who is not merely a Tory but a rich and southern one) in particular, could aid his quest for independence. Cameron, who has taken the cabinet to Aberdeen today, (Salmond and his team will meet just 10 miles away) is keenly aware of this, knowingly remarking recently that "my appeal does not stretch to all parts of Scotland". It's for this reason that he has been largely content to leave the fight against Scottish nationalism  to Alistair Darling, the head of the Better Together campaign and has declined Salmond's invitation to go head-to-head in a live debate. But with the referendum now less than seven months away, it would be rather odd if Cameron, as the Prime Minister of the UK and the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party (someone, in other words, with a bigger stake than most in the Union enduring), did not speak out on the issue. 

Even after the recent tightening of the polls, the No campaign continues to enjoy a double-digit lead over the pro-independence camp. One of the few factors that could help to tilt the odds in Salmond's favour at this late stage would be a significant Tory recovery.  The fear of another five years under the Conservative yoke, and a government wedded to permanent austerity, could help to push many undecided voters towards independence. But if Labour is still comfortably ahead in the polls in September 2014, far fewer will fear what lies ahead. The uncomfortable truth for Cameron is that the better his party performs, the worse the chances of saving the Union become. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Stability is essential to solve the pension problem

The new chancellor must ensure we have a period of stability for pension policymaking in order for everyone to acclimatise to a new era of personal responsibility in retirement, says 

There was a time when retirement seemed to take care of itself. It was normal to work, retire and then receive the state pension plus a company final salary pension, often a fairly generous figure, which also paid out to a spouse or partner on death.

That normality simply doesn’t exist for most people in 2016. There is much less certainty on what retirement looks like. The genesis of these experiences also starts much earlier. As final salary schemes fall out of favour, the UK is reaching a tipping point where savings in ‘defined contribution’ pension schemes become the most prevalent form of traditional retirement saving.

Saving for a ‘pension’ can mean a multitude of different things and the way your savings are organised can make a big difference to whether or not you are able to do what you planned in your later life – and also how your money is treated once you die.

George Osborne established a place for himself in the canon of personal savings policy through the introduction of ‘freedom and choice’ in pensions in 2015. This changed the rules dramatically, and gave pension income a level of public interest it had never seen before. Effectively the policymakers changed the rules, left the ring and took the ropes with them as we entered a new era of personal responsibility in retirement.

But what difference has that made? Have people changed their plans as a result, and what does 'normal' for retirement income look like now?

Old Mutual Wealth has just released. with YouGov, its third detailed survey of how people in the UK are planning their income needs in retirement. What is becoming clear is that 'normal' looks nothing like it did before. People have adjusted and are operating according to a new normal.

In the new normal, people are reliant on multiple sources of income in retirement, including actively using their home, as more people anticipate downsizing to provide some income. 24 per cent of future retirees have said they would consider releasing value from their home in one way or another.

In the new normal, working beyond your state pension age is no longer seen as drudgery. With increasing longevity, the appeal of keeping busy with work has grown. Almost one-third of future retirees are expecting work to provide some of their income in retirement, with just under half suggesting one of the reasons for doing so would be to maintain social interaction.

The new normal means less binary decision-making. Each choice an individual makes along the way becomes critical, and the answers themselves are less obvious. How do you best invest your savings? Where is the best place for a rainy day fund? How do you want to take income in the future and what happens to your assets when you die?

 An abundance of choices to provide answers to the above questions is good, but too much choice can paralyse decision-making. The new normal requires a plan earlier in life.

All the while, policymakers have continued to give people plenty of things to think about. In the past 12 months alone, the previous chancellor deliberated over whether – and how – to cut pension tax relief for higher earners. The ‘pensions-ISA’ system was mooted as the culmination of a project to hand savers complete control over their retirement savings, while also providing a welcome boost to Treasury coffers in the short term.

During her time as pensions minister, Baroness Altmann voiced her support for the current system of taxing pension income, rather than contributions, indicating a split between the DWP and HM Treasury on the matter. Baroness Altmann’s replacement at the DWP is Richard Harrington. It remains to be seen how much influence he will have and on what side of the camp he sits regarding taxing pensions.

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond has entered the Treasury while our new Prime Minister calls for greater unity. Following a tumultuous time for pensions, a change in tone towards greater unity and cross-department collaboration would be very welcome.

In order for everyone to acclimatise properly to the new normal, the new chancellor should commit to a return to a longer-term, strategic approach to pensions policymaking, enabling all parties, from regulators and providers to customers, to make decisions with confidence that the landscape will not continue to shift as fundamentally as it has in recent times.

Steven Levin is CEO of investment platforms at Old Mutual Wealth.

To view all of Old Mutual Wealth’s retirement reports, visit: products-and-investments/ pensions/pensions2015/