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Martin Docherty-Hughes MP: “Scots are being unfairly disadvantaged by a UK pensions policy which fails to reflect Scotland’s demographic needs.”

The Tory UK government appears to have learned no lessons from its bruising result in June’s snap general election as Theresa May continues to pursue the Tories’ ill-conceived austerity agenda no matter the cost.

On 19th July, the day before parliament entered its summer recess, the Tories snuck out an announcement that the state pension age would be increasing from 67 to 68 from 2037 – seven years earlier than expected.

As a result, more than half a million men and women in Scotland currently aged between 39 and 47, including thousands of Bankies and people across West Dunbartonshire, will be forced to wait a year longer than expected before they can claim their state pension entitlement.

This could have a hugely disproportionate impact on Scotland, as areas such as West Dunbartonshire have a lower life expectancy than the rest of the UK due to historic and deeply ingrained public health challenges. Once again we see Scots being unfairly disadvantaged by a UK pensions policy which fails to reflect Scotland’s demographic needs.

The fact that this announcement was not made prior to the general election and then snuck out at the last-minute to avoid parliamentary scrutiny is shameful and indicative of a Tory Government that cannot be trusted on pensions.

As well as threatening to axe the pensions triple-lock – which guarantees a minimum increase in the state pension each year – the Tories continue to refuse to deliver a fair deal for thousands of women born in the 1950s who are being denied their pensions and now find their retirement plans in disarray.

The SNP is committed to fighting against this injustice and will continue to work with the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign to secure fairness for the women affected. For the UK government to plead poverty and say they can’t afford to pay the WASPI women what they’re owed beggars belief when the Tories can find £1 billion to keep Theresa May in power.

It’s disappointing that, rather than work together with the SNP to press the UK Government for a fair deal for the WASPI women, Scottish Labour politicians haven chosen to attack the Scottish Government instead – joining forces with the Tories to make false claims that the Scottish Parliament has the power to mitigate this pension injustice. That is simply not the case under the current devolution settlement and, even if it was, Scottish taxpayers should not be expected to pay twice to mitigate yet another regressive Tory government policy.

Successive UK governments have failed to uphold the social contract which underpins our social security system. The SNP will continue doing everything possible to stand up for WASPI women and fight pension inequality.

This column appeared in the Clydebank Post on 16 August 2017.

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