Remember 2014? Scotland was having a real debate about our future. Claims and counterclaims were made. One of the most heated areas of debate was welfare and pensions.
The Yes campaign argued – based on actual spending figures north and south of the border – that the social security system would be more affordable in an independent Scotland.
The Labour-Tory No campaign argued that it was only by “pooling and sharing” our resources across the UK that pensions would continue to be paid.
Well, that argument seems long forgotten now – at least by those who made it. Thanks to the Tories – with the support of their Lib Dem partners – by the time all cuts in benefits are in place by 2021 Scotland will be facing a reduction of £2 billion. Every year.
That is not including the hundreds of thousands of women born in the 1950s who are being deprived of their pensions, and are told that they must carry on working until they are 65.
Although we – and they – agree on the need to equalise pension age, it is the greatly accelerated timetable which is completely unfair – especially given many of these women were finalising their retirement plans.
The inspirational WASPI campaign – Women Against State Pension Inequality – has highlighted this injustice and I’ve been proud to help them. In Holyrood and at Westminster, the SNP fully supports their campaign, seeking pensions justice for women all across the UK.
That campaign would have so much more momentum if other political parties in Scotland got behind it.
Unfortunately – once again – Labour are dancing to the Tories’ tune. They have been taken in by bogus Tory claims that the Scottish Parliament has the power to mitigate this.
We have looked carefully at whether we could do something, as we have done in the past, such as ensuring no one in Scotland has to pay the hated Bedroom Tax.
We’re now spending well over £100m a year mitigating some of the worst of the Westminster welfare cuts. But nowhere in the devolution settlement does it offer a practical, workable solution to deal with the narrow definition of women who are facing this injustice. But even if it could, should it?
Filling this gap means money being diverted from elsewhere. Do you think the WASPI women who have paid into the Treasury for decades and expected their State Pension, want to see money not going to Scottish schools or hospitals because the Tories in Westminster won’t do the right thing?
So why do Scottish Labour think it is right that people in Scotland should pay twice, to receive social security from the Westminster system that they have paid into? Why are they not turning their eyes to the Tories who took this decision?
We’ve been here before – with the Rape Clause, a despicable policy, which requires women who became pregnant through rape to demonstrate that to an official in order to receive Tax Credits. Ruth Davidson said that taxpayers in Scotland should pay twice to mitigate this policy.
If Labour and their Tory allies believe that the Scottish Parliament should be responsible for funding these policies – and I agree with them – then they should devolve the funding that goes with them. Instead, at every turn, they have sought to let Westminster off the hook.
The rape clause? – Westminster’s mess, but the Scottish Parliament should fix it at Scottish taxpayers’ expense. Depriving women of their state pensions? – Westminster’s mess, but the Scottish Parliament should fix it at Scottish taxpayers’ expense.
Presumably, if the Tories were to turn around and say they were ending pension payments in Scotland altogether, Scottish Labour would just say that Holyrood should step in and pay them.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.