They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom, unfortunately. Richard Butcher, managing director of PTL argues that trustees can, and often should avoid offering new freedoms

Although not a very true representation of the truth, the Mel Gibson film Braveheart was a cracker. Beautiful scenery, atmospheric music, drama, excitement, limbs being hacked off and a truly appalling Scottish accent.

The Braveheart played by Gibson, for those of you not familiar with the story, was William Wallace.

Wallace was one of the leaders during the wars of Scottish independence in the late 13th Century (although the film portrays him as a peaceful peasant driven to fight by the murder of his wife, whereas, in truth, he was a Scottish nobleman (a Sir indeed) and landowner).

In one of the most iconic scenes which, not surprisingly, falls towards the end of the film, Wallace is hung, drawn and quartered.

As he is pushed dramatically towards death, his cruel (inevitably) English torturers (complete with appalling Eton-like accents) invite him to repent. Wallace’s defiant response is to bellow “FREEDOM” and then to die – to the sound of Scottish pipes and a soft focus image of his long dead wife.

Wallace’s defiant response is to bellow “FREEDOM” and then to die”

Great scene, hugely uplifting and fantastically inspiring. A hero, a champion and man of outstanding bravery.

But, if you peer carefully at the crowd in the background, right at the back you will see a plain little man, in the traditional dress of the day, shaking his head, turning away and muttering to himself.

If you could lip read with a Scottish accent, you would be able to tell he was saying “och man, I don’t want any of this freedom stuff. It comes with too much responsibility. I’m happy for someone else to worry. I’m happy as I am.”

Another old Etonian, also facing a Scottish rebellion against rule from London, stood at the dispatch box in the House of Commons on budget day last year and subverted Wallace’s response, albeit in a more restrained voice.

Och man, I don’t want any of this freedom stuff. It comes with too much responsibility”

DC members, he announced, would have freedom. No longer would they have to use their pot to provide a regular income in retirement. Instead, they could consume it as fast or as slow and as variably as they wanted

In the film of George Osborne’s life, to be made in about 900 years time, the 30th Century Mel Gibson equivalent will play the scene with the same sort of drama as Mel played his Braveheart.

Braveheart

Scott Neeson on the set of Braveheart, 1995” by Scott Neeson - via Wikimedia Commons.

His bellowing cry of FREEDOM will be followed by uplifting music and soft focus images of trustees handing out cash on demand to grateful pensioners.

But, if you peer carefully at the crowd in the background, you will see a plain little trustee, in the traditional dress of the day, shaking his head, turning away and muttering to himself.

Pension freedom has arrived, but it is perfectly okay for trustees not to provide it”

If you could lip read, you would be able to tell he was saying “Blimey, I don’t want to provide any of this freedom stuff. It comes with too much responsibility. I’m happy for someone else to worry. I’m happy as I am.”

Pension freedom has arrived, but it is perfectly okay for trustees not to provide it. It is okay for those not comfortable with handing out cash as fast, or slow or variably as the member wants to say “no”. It is ok for them to tell their member “if you want freedom and choice then take the pot and go somewhere else.”

Not only is this ok, it is what many trustees, keen to avoid being hung, drawn and quartered for getting it wrong, are doing.

Richard Butcher, independent trustee and managing director of PTL