State Pension Changes (Compensation for Women)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Angus MacDonald Angus MacDonald Scottish National Party

This issue continues to raise its head for all the wrong reasons.

First and foremost, I thank Sandra White MSP for, once again, bringing this serious issue to the chamber for debate.

There will not be one of the 129 members in the chamber who has not encountered the WASPI campaign and WASPI women within their constituency or region over the past few years. Their arguments have remained constant and consistent and they have been well rehearsed by previous speakers, so I will not go back over them.

Sadly, it is one of a number of unfair and unreasonable policies implemented by a Tory UK Government that is continually out of touch and out of luck, and which is rapidly running out of time.

Not only were the changes ineffectively communicated and, in many instances, not communicated at all, but they are reliant on the women affected remembering whether they were informed about them over 25 years ago, although I acknowledge that even that may not have happened.

That is not just ludicrous. It is completely unreasonable for the UK Government to just assume that it is all fine. The sheer ineptitude of this Tory UK Government is quite astonishing. Mind you, it is wholly unsurprising that they have taken a carry-on-regardless approach, just as we have seen them do with other issues that are coming home to roost.

Sandra White’s motion urges the UK Government to provide bridging pensions and compensation to those most affected by the changes, and I believe that that is the very least that the UK Government should be doing. A recognition that its approach to the issue is entirely counterproductive and personal apologies to all those who have been affected would go some way towards rebuilding those burned-down bridges.

While those who are living have to bear the brunt of the severe incompetence and intransigence of the UK Government, our thoughts should turn to those who have died waiting on it to get its act together. It is nothing short of a scandal that women across the countries of the UK who have been fighting against state pension inequality have since died waiting for the UK Government to clean up its mess; it should be utterly ashamed of that harrowing and abhorrent fact.

Make no mistake, the hundreds of WASPI women in my Falkirk East constituency, and those across the wider Falkirk district, have allies on the benches here to call on the Tory UK Government to face up to its own inadequacies and admit that it has failed those women. It needs to act on its failures and find a solution to the matter—a point that we in the SNP have been making for years now through our Westminster colleagues. I have little faith that the UK Government will make that happen, however, and I fully believe that if it does not make it happen, then it should give those powers to the Scottish Government to ensure that it does happen.

We often hear cries from the Tory benches about welfare powers, and I remind them that the benefits that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament still have to fit within the confines of a narrow UK system that is failing our citizens across these countries. The only way forward for Scotland to be able to treat our citizens with dignity, fairness and respect is to take the decisions that affect us most, ourselves.

We can see that this is a mess created by the UK Government that habitually turns its backs on its own citizens. Governments are supposed to be there to protect and provide for the people. However, in our experience, Tory Governments are interested only in protecting and providing for their own interests. I add to the calls from this Parliament for the UK Government to get its act together and ensure that WASPI women, who have lost out to date, get the apology and the money that they rightfully deserve.