THE government's pensions lifeboat is expected to lodge a claim of more than £300m with Johnston Press’s administrators in a bid to salvage funds for thousands of former and current staff.

The move expected by the Pension Protection Fund comes amid their concerns over the rescue plan for the newspaper group which owns The Scotsman.

The regional newspaper publisher, which also owns the i and the Yorkshire Post was rescued by creditors through a newly formed company JPI Media over the weekend, in a controversial insolvency procedure that enables firms to be sold off without its liabilities, such as pension debt.

It meant that 250 current staff and 5,000 former employees who are enrolled in Johnston Press's defined benefit scheme would be transferred to the PPF.

HeraldScotland: Johnston Press finances

But at the reduced level of payments to scheme members that the PPF pays, the scheme’s funding shortfall would be around £109m.

The PPF is compelled by the Pension Act to seek to cover the cost of taking on the scheme as part of the administration process and it is understood it is looking to recover £305m against the assets of Johnston Press, a figure estimated to be the cost of securing members’ benefits with an insurer.

As the new owners now own the assets, it is not known how the PPF will be able to recover any of the amount claimed. There is speculation that PPF might be looking at whether the £35m JPI said would be invested into the business could be used to help pension holders.

Johnston Press shareholders are also expected to receive nothing as it was deemed to have no value following the initial failed sale process. Christen Ager-Hanssen, the biggest shareholder in the former Johnston Press, whose 25.06 share was rendered worthless by the insolvency, attacked the deal as “shameful” and owed to do everything in his power to overturn the company’s sale The PPF move comes after it said on Monday that it has “concerns” about the pre-pack administration deal while the Pension Regulator said it had begun a probe into Friday's rescue deal.

There was concern that the owner of Johnston Press, who saved it after it fell into administration, was 'dumping' responsibility for staff pension schemes.

PPF's concerns are understood to surround the timing of the move to administration said to have come 48 hours before a scheduled pension contribution was due, raising concerns over whether alternative measures were fully explored.

Johnston Press put itself up for sale in October after failing to come up with a way of refinancing its £220m debt It said on Friday it had not received any offer of sufficient value and there was therefore “no value in the ordinary shares of the company”.

On Tuesday it said: "Johnston Press has been in regular dialogue with its Pension Scheme Trustees, The Pension Regulator, and the PPF since 2014. Throughout our extensive and detailed discussions during the strategic review we have kept them informed every step of the way.

"Up until the administration the company met all its obligations to the scheme, with more than £55m paid in relation to the plan from the beginning of 2014.”

AlixPartners, administrator for Johnston Press, said that, in conjunction with the board and other advisers, it had “worked closely with all relevant stakeholders, including those relating to pensions, prior to the administration and will continue to do so as required”.

A statement prepared by the insolvency practitioner, surrounding the sale is expected later this week.