I move on to why the Scottish Government cannot intervene on the issue. Section 24 of the Scotland Act 2016 allows the Scottish Government to top up a reserved benefit. However, while some of the women affected may be receiving some form of benefit, depending on their individual circumstances, they will not, as a whole, be receiving a reserved benefit that could be topped up.
Section 26 of the 2016 act is limited to providing help for
“a short-term need that requires to be met to avoid a risk” to a person’s wellbeing. It would require that every person be assessed individually, but would not allow for assistance for the majority of those who are in the WASPI group.
Finally, section 28 of the 2016 act gives the Scottish Government the power to create new benefits. However, it clearly states that we cannot provide
“assistance by way of pensions to or in respect of individuals who qualify by reason of old age.”
Yet the UK Government is suggesting that we can provide mitigation for those who are affected specifically because of their age and a lack of state pension.
I hope that the UK Government does not continue to try to deflect the issue on to the Scottish Government. The UK Government seems to want to ignore the issue and to simply shrug its shoulders, throw up its hands and hope that the women will get tired and the issue will go away. However, it will not go away, and it is not too late for the UK Government to take responsibility for the heartbreak and misery that it is causing and find ways and means to provide transitional protection for those women.
In her speech, Michelle Ballantyne talked about how much the alternatives may cost. Many members have quite rightly pointed out examples of when the UK Government found money when it was a priority for it to do so. However, the key point is that the money is not the UK Government’s money; it is the women’s money. They have paid for it over decades. That is why the Scottish Government will continue to fully support the WASPI campaign.
I congratulate all members who have supported Sandra White’s motion.
Meeting closed at 18:20.