Reformer Column 26th September – Clare Haughey MSP

If the way we treat our elderly is a reflection of the type of society we purport to be, then the attitude of UK Governments to those approaching retirement leaves a lot to be desired, particularly in relation to the state pension.

After a lifetime of hard work, it should be the case that our pensioners should be looking forward to a comfortable retirement, with an adequate pension.

As it stands, workers in the UK receive the worst state pension of any major country, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD.)

In a study they published last year the OECD calculated that a typical British worker will receive a state pension and other benefits worth around only 29% of what they had previously been earning.

The average in other OECD countries is 63%, and more than 80% in Italy and the Netherlands.

This is the lowest rate of any developed country and is evidence of the chronic mis-management of pensions policy by successive UK Governments, regardless of Party.

To plug a looming future pensions deficit, UK Governments have, firstly, equalised the pension age for women to that of men, and are planning to successively raise the pension age for both to at least 70 by 2037.

The equalisation of the state pension age has obviously hit women approaching retirement badly, particularly the 2.6 million women across the UK born in the 1950s, who have been forced to wait even longer for access to their pension without enough time to prepare financially.

The Scottish Government fully support the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign in their efforts to secure fairness for women affected by this acceleration in the retirement age, and I was pleased to be able to support a WASPI surgery last year at my constituency office.

While my party agrees with the equalisation of the State Pension Age, we do not support the unfair manner in which these changes were made in the 2011 Pensions Act.

In terms of a resolution to the issue, SNP-commissioned research found that it would cost £8 billion over five years to reverse the 2011 changes and give WASPI women more time to prepare – significantly less than the £30 billion suggested by the UK Government.

Predictably, the UK Government have refused to consider this reasonable solution but can find billions of pounds to bribe the DUP for their support, or renovate Parliament.

In government, this Scottish Government will always use the powers at our disposal to protect the poorest in our society and mitigate the worst excess of the UK Government. However, with the limited social security powers devolved to Scotland, the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to create new pension benefits.

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