SCOTTISH Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has pledged to use Holyrood’s new welfare powers to “top up” the pensions of thousands of women who are set to lose out under changes to the system.
The raising of the state pension age, together with the introduction of a single-tier arrangement, will leave almost 100,000 women worse off than men of the same age.
Ms Dugdale said her party would use money saved by reversing the Tories’ changes to the higher-rate tax threshold to give those affected an extra payment to make up the difference.
She also promised to protect winter fuel payments, guarantee free bus passes, protect NHS budgets and stop cuts to community services.
She said: “As people live longer and more active lives, we all have a responsibility to support them and to make sure that they can continue to live their lives to the full, without the fear of not being able to put food on the table or heat their homes.
“That’s why Labour will place the growing number of older people in Scotland at the heart of our programme for government.”
The age at which women qualify for the state pension is due to rise to 65 in November 2018 and 66 by 2020. The changes are happening quicker than was initially expected, hitting women in particular. Women born between April 1951 and 1953 will be an estimated £6 a week worse off than males born at the same time.
Ms Dugdale said: “The changes being made by the Tory government will hit thousands of women across Scotland, who over the course of their life have paid into the system and done the right thing. Through no fault of their own they are going to be worse off because of these changes.
“Labour has led the opposition to these cuts at Westminster and we’ll carry on fighting to make sure that these women are no worse off, but I’m not going to sit and wait on the Tories to do something when we have the power to act now.
“We’ll use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to top up the pensions of these women and make sure that none of them are worse off.”
Meanwhile, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon promised a “relentless” focus on boosting the economy and creating jobs if her party is elected for a third term in government.
She said the SNP’s economic plan included fresh support to help businesses expand, a new annual innovation prize, an educational programme aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship in the workplace and investment in apprenticeships, and other support to help young people find work.
The SNP would also triple the number of exporting advisers and set up new innovation and investment hubs in London, Dublin and Brussels to attract economic activity and help businesses access new markets.