The Future of Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:53 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of John Swinburne John Swinburne SSCUP 10:53 am, 29th March 2007

An election is coming up. It must be inspirational for any pensioner who is tuned in to today's debate to hear how much all the parties are going to do for senior citizens. The Tories talked about taking 50 per cent off council tax. The SNP will take a number of pensioners out of having to pay council tax. Little else has been offered, so a plague on all your houses!

The grey vote will be very important in the election, and it has been neglected for far too long. The only independence that worries senior citizens is financial independence. It is brilliant that they get free central heating systems, but they cannot afford to turn them on. Fuel prices escalate and no one tries to get the fuel companies to bring them down. They might come down naturally, but there is no Government interference. Those companies should never have been privatised in the first place; they should have been under the control of the people of the country for the benefit of the people of the country, including all the pensioners.

After a pensioner is means tested, he is awarded £119 a week. His spouse—who, seemingly, is an inferior being in the modern context—gets £62. There is no gender equality in the pension system. That couple, after means testing, have to live on £90 a week each. They get free bus travel—fair enough—and they will get free personal care. However, if they are really sick and they end up in hospital or a care home, the first person to their bedside is a social worker who will ask, "Do you own your own house?" and then steal that house to pay for their residential care. Where is our social conscience? Have we none at all? We take someone who is elderly and vulnerable and steal the inheritance that they want to give to their children. Going by the financial experts in this place, it would cost £5.82 million to rectify that situation. I could not get any Labour or Tory members to sign my bill on that subject. One SNP member signed it and 22 members of other parties—including the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the Scottish Socialist Party and Solidarity—and the independent members signed it. That was rewarding, but the grey voters will remember who is looking after their interests. I assure members that they do not think that the present incumbents are. There will be big changes.

One thing that this country must go for is more power. Obviously, the Executive's hands are tied by Westminster. Some form of financial devolution is needed so that we can get our hands on what we can spend in the community for the good of ordinary people. Gordon Brown brought income tax down to around 20p but then did away with the 10p threshold. I do not know whether he thought that Scottish pensioners would be dancing in the streets of Raith after that announcement, but I can tell him that they were not. I can assure him that his budget will not get the Labour Party any votes in the election.

Members should reflect on the results of the elections. I assure them that many of them are in for a fright—I might be too. That would just be members' luck.