Jus­tice for WASPI women

Hamilton Advertiser - - HAMILTON VIEW -

Last Mon­day the Chan­cel­lor de­liv­ered a bud­get a few days ear­lier than the planned date of Oc­to­ber 31.

The rea­son for his speech be­ing moved was to avoid the ob­vi­ous PR dis­as­ter of de­liv­er­ing a bud­get of cuts on the scari­est day of the year.

Phillip Ham­mond may have avoided Hal­loween, but he de­liv­ered a pack­age dressed up as some­thing it was not. He told us aus­ter­ity was over, that the cuts would come to an end and the Bri­tish peo­ple could be op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of pub­lic ser­vices.

Like so many bud­get state­ments be­fore, the blus­ter did not match re­al­ity.

While the Chan­cel­lor an­nounced in­creased cash flow to Scot­land, Holy­rood’s block grant has been cut by al­most £2 bil­lion since 2010, and while he de­liv­ered tax cuts for the well-off, he de­liv­ered cuts for every­one else.

The Tories had the op­por­tu­nity to end aus­ter­ity, halt the roll-out of Uni­ver­sal Credit, and give the WASPI women the jus­tice they de­served – but in­stead they de­liv­ered a bud­get of cuts and bro­ken prom­ises.

In the run-up to his state­ment, I wrote to Phillip Ham­mond ask­ing him – on the cen­te­nary of the first women get­ting the vote – to pay the WASPI women what they are due.

Al­most 7000 women in my con­stituency paid their Na­tional In­sur­ance con­tri­bu­tions in the ex­pec­ta­tion that they would re­ceive the state pen­sion at a cer­tain age, only for the goal­posts to have been moved by the UK Govern­ment with­out no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

As a re­sult, the num­ber of women in La­nark and Hamil­ton East aged over 60 claim­ing Uni­ver­sal Credit and Em­ploy­ment Sup­port Al­lowance has in­creased more than any other age group. For Em­ploy­ment Sup­port Al­lowance, the claimant count in­creased by a stag­ger­ing 390 per cent, and for Uni­ver­sal Credit it has shot-up by 30 per cent.

The House of Com­mons Li­brary stated the rea­son for those dra­matic in­creases is likely to be down pen­sion aged changes. Women that were ex­pect­ing to re­ceive their state pen­sions are now be­ing forced onto ben­e­fits as a re­sult.

I should be clear that I sup­port the equal­i­sa­tion of pen­sion age, but the way in which the UK govern­ment have con­ducted them­selves has been dis­grace­ful and for the Chan­cel­lor to ig­nore the glar­ing in­jus­tice faced by these women is an ut­ter be­trayal.

He may think the is­sue will blow over and the cam­paign will stop, but he has not met the WASPI women – the fiercest, most de­ter­mined and or­gan­ised group of grass­roots cam­paign­ers I have ever met. I will cam­paign along­side them un­til jus­tice has been served.

An­other is­sue that dom­i­nated the bud­get de­bate was the botched roll-out of Uni­ver­sal Credit. Prior to the Chan­cel­lor’s state­ment he promised a cash in­jec­tion to re­solve the struc­tural er­rors in the sys­tem.

How­ever, like so many of his an­nounce­ments, it was shal­low. Scratch be­neath the sur­face and the rhetoric falls apart.

His pal­try fund­ing “boost” for Uni­ver­sal Credit does noth­ing for peo­ple cur­rently strug­gling and goes nowhere near re­vers­ing years, and bil­lions of pounds, worth of so­cial se­cu­rity cuts.

In­stead of halt­ing the roll­out, fix­ing the prob­lems and giv­ing the sys­tem the cash it re­quired, he sim­ply re­versed half the cuts in­tro­duced by Ge­orge Os­borne in 2015. Worst still, the vile rape-clause and non­sen­si­cal two-child pol­icy are still in­grained into the sys­tem.

It should go with­out say­ing that no-one should have to prove they have been the vic­tim of rape to re­ceive tax cred­its. Uni­ver­sal Credit will con­tinue to be a dis­grace as long as the rape-clause ex­ists.

This was a bud­get set in the face of col­laps­ing Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, but the Prime Min­is­ter of­fered some light when she de­clared that aus­ter­ity was over. How­ever, mo­ments after the bud­get an­nounce­ment was con­cluded, the spin fell apart.

Scot­land shouldn’t have to pick up the cost of the con­tin­ued chaos at the heart of the UK govern­ment. This bud­get has pre­sented Scot­land with the choice of two fu­tures: one in a union of chaos and hard­ship; or a fu­ture of op­por­tu­nity in a pros­per­ous, fairer Scot­land in the Euro­pean Union.

WASPI women – the fiercest, most de­ter­mined and or­gan­ised group of grass­roots cam­paign­ers I have ever met

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