Nicola Sturgeon is today outlining key guarantees for pensioners offered by independence – and challenged Labour to back them instead of backing the Tories.
The Deputy First Minister has accused the Labour party of supporting Conservative plans that would see payments to Scottish pensioners cut, hitting some of the poorest members of society.
Commenting, Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Gordon Brown and Labour have to explain why they are backing Tory plans to cut payments for pensioners across Scotland.
“When he was the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown backed a much slower increase in the state pension age, but now the Labour party has joined the Tories in plans to increase the state pension age to 67 from 2026.
“This decision is unfair to men and women across Scotland and will mean that Scottish pensioners continue to lose on average £10,000 compared to pensioners in the rest of the UK.”
In its White Paper – Scotland’s Future – the Scottish Government has set out a process to set a state pension age that is appropriate for Scotland, to retain the savings credit, uprate pension credit and the state pension by a triple-lock that keeps pace with the cost of living.
The SNP administration has also said it will set the value of the Single Tier Pension in Scotland at a minimum of £160 per week – a move that will benefit new pensioners by £260 a year compared to what is estimated to be on offer from the anti-independence parties.
Meanwhile, as the referendum campaign enters its final weeks, Labour is standing firmly behind the Tory plans to increase the state pension age to 67 at an accelerated pace.
Ms Sturgeon has said the failure to properly uprate entitlement to pension credit coupled with their decision to abolish the savings credit hits poorer pensioners. The UK Government has also declined to spell out what the value of the single tier pension will be in the event of a No vote.
Under Scottish Government proposals post-independence, pensions will keep up with the cost of living.
- Both the Basic State Pension and the Single Tier Pension for new pensioners will be increased by the Triple Lock -which means that pensions increase by average earnings, CPI inflation, or 2.5%, whichever of these is the highest.
- Pension Credit- that is support for poorer pensioners who do not get the full basic state pension, mostly women, will also increase by the Triple Lock- something the anti-independence parties are not committed to.
- Savings Credit- which provides additional support for poorer pensioners who have made some financial provision for their retirement- is being abolished by the anti-independence parties. We will maintain Savings Credit which is worth up to £18 per week for an individual and up to £24 for a couple.
- An independent Scottish Government will set the Single Tier Pension for new pensioners at £160 per week in 2016. The anti-independence parties have refused to say what level the STP will be but on the basis of past indications we estimate that it will be £5 per week or £260 per annum less than the Scottish Government commitment.
- Pension age has risen rapidly for women and is set to rise to 67 for men and women from 2026. The Scottish Government has said it does not accept the necessity of the rapid rise in the pension age to 67 and will establish a commission to examine the appropriate pension age according to Scottish circumstances.
The Deputy First Minister criticised Labour’s stance and added:
“The decision to follow the Tory lead and abolish savings credit is a direct hit on poorer pensioners who have saved for their retirement.
“This is a particularly mean spirited decision and Labour should be ashamed that they have signed up with the Tories on this cut.
“Similarly the decision not to increase pension credit in line with the triple-lock is a blow to poorer pensioners
“Labour and the Tories are singing from the same hymn sheet on pension cuts and it is only a Yes vote that will protect pensioners in future from these cuts.
“Scotland is a rich country which can well afford to fund out pension payments and an independent Scotland will give pensions and pensioners the priority they deserve. It is only with independence that all our pensioners will be protected from Tory cuts.”