WOMEN’S PENSIONS

Nicola tears a strip off Tory MSP on the question of women’s pensions

 Tory Michelle Ballantyne got the rough edge of Nicola’s tongue.

By Bill Heaney

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tore a strip off a Tory MSP who suggested the Scottish Government should be doing more to education young people about their pension entitlement.

Ms Sturgeon asked Michelle Ballantyne, who raised the matter at Holyrood on Thursday: “What example has been set for them when more than two million women paid their national insurance contributions in full, in the expectation that they would receive their state pension at a certain age, only to be robbed of that pension entitlement by the UK Government.

“If we want to encourage and convince young people to save for their retirement, we must start treating our current pensioners with more dignity and respect than the Government that is currently in charge of pensions is doing.

“I hope that Michelle Ballantyne will make that case forcibly to her Westminster colleagues.”

Ms Ballantyne raised the First Minister’s hackles when she asked “what steps the Scottish Government is taking to ensure that people are financially ready for their retirement”.

In a fine show of feistiness, the First Minister replied: “Unfortunately, matters relating to pensions remain reserved to the United Kingdom Government.

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Campaigners on the pensions front in West Dunbartonshire include Jackie Baillie MSP and Martin Docherty-Hughes MP. Picture by Bill Heaney

“However, we are committed to doing what we can, within our current powers, to ensure that people are financially ready for retirement.

“We support the development of a labour market that offers good-quality and rewarding jobs for everyone, no matter their age.

“We also support older people through our financial health check service, which offers free advice to older people to help them to maximise their incomes.

“We do that work in the face of continuing attacks from the Tory Government on people who are reaching retirement age.

“Those attacks include the scandal of the thousands of women against state pension inequality who are facing delays in receiving their pensions and the disgraceful cuts to pension credit for mixed-age couples.

“I do not know what Michelle Ballantyne’s follow-up question will be, but let me warn her that I will take no lectures on pensions from the Tories.”

Michelle Ballantyne replied: “Given that I asked a question and was not lecturing, that is quite a sad response.

“I am heartened to hear that the First Minister is trying to do things for older people who are nearing retirement. “However, through my conversations with younger people, I have found that most of them have only a very basic understanding of how their pension works and how to contribute to it during their lives.

“Back in 2015, action was taken down south to create teaching materials to explain financial planning to youngsters, following research by the minister, Steve Webb, which found that teenagers’ expectations of a state pension stretched from £800 a week to £9 a week.

“Is the Scottish Government taking steps to educate school pupils on the importance of their pension and to include learning on that in the curriculum?”

The First Minister replied: “To be fair, the question is reasonable. The matter is reserved, but we acknowledge our responsibility to contribute to it.

“If we say that we need to educate young people more on saving for their retirement, we should wonder what example has been set for them when more than two million women paid their national insurance contributions in full, in the expectation that they would receive their state pension at a certain age, only to be robbed of that pension entitlement by the UK Government.

“If we want to encourage and convince young people to save for their retirement, we must start treating our current pensioners with more dignity and respect than the Government that is currently in charge of pensions is doing. I hope that Michelle Ballantyne will make that case forcibly to her Westminster colleagues.”

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