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Pension fund can recover £50,000

The Court of Session has backed the right of the Scottish Solicitors' Staff Pension Fund to claim unpaid pension contributions from a high street law firm to help plug its £10 million deficit.

The fund, whose 300 members include former lawyers and employees of some of Scotland's leading law firms, built up the deficit in the wake of the financial crisis, it has emerged.

Now the scheme's trustees have been given the green light to recover more than £50,000 of outstanding employer contributions from law firm Pattison & Sim.

Current Pattison & Sim partners David Howat and Bridget McLaren are in dispute with their former partner William Sim over an alleged continuing liability to the pension fund when the terms of his retirement were negotiated in 2005. Lawyers for the firm claimed during the proceedings that the business would face "a potentially calamitous situation" given the potential for further recoveries.

But in his judgment, Lord Woolman dismissed arguments that scheme documentation had not been properly amended, claiming the defence was "unduly technical and legalistic."

Ian Gordon, partner at Pinsent Masons, who is advising the trustees, said the judgment diverged from the approach so far taken to pension disputes in the English courts, and was "good news" for scheme members in Scotland.

Mr Gordon said: "This ruling is reassuring for members of this and other schemes, as it takes a sensible and pragmatic approach to how funds should be administered."

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