RUTH Davidson was been lambasted for ignoring a protest of around 150 women demanding pensions justice outside the Scottish Parliament yesterday.
The SNP, Labour, LibDems, and the Scottish Greens sent representatives to speak to campaigners at the demonstration. No one from the Tories turned up.
Both Davidson and secretary of state David Mundell had been invited to the demonstrations but organisers said they never received a response from them.
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Nearly all of those at the protest were women in their 60s, bearing the brunt of a change in the state pension age.
They were some of the 2.6 million women throughout the UK who have been affected by government plans to increase the pension age for women to 66, bringing it in line with the official state pension age for men.
The campaign group Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) say their supporters have played by the rules, only for the rules to be changed at the last minute.
The WASPI protesters have no issue with the equalisation, it is the implementation that has caused them distress. There was little warning that the date they could draw their pension down was about to change when the government introduced new pensions legislation in 2011.
Many had already made plans to retire, expecting to do so soon. Those plans, say WASPI, were shattered with “devastating consequences”.
The changes mean that some women – those born on or after April 6, 1951 – will retire at around 63 rather than 60, while others will have to wait until they are over 65. The government rejected the recommendations of a commission calling for a period of 15 years’ notice to be given for pension changes, giving those affected just five years to change plans.
WASPI have called on the UK Government to implement a universal bridging pension for those affected, and include compensation for losses for those women who have already reached their state pension age.
The demonstration was organised by WASPI’s month-old Edinburgh branch and follows recent similar protests in London and in Glasgow.
Organiser Andrea Gregory told The National she was disappointed the Tories had not turned up.
“Although it’s not a devolved issue, any event like this helps draw people’s attention to our situation. And there are one or two direct lines. The Conservatives are, of course, represented here at the Scottish Parliament and they have a direct line to the Westminster Government.”
“They know we’re here. We won’t give up; we will keep trying,” Gregory added.
Addressing the protesters, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said there was consensus from all parties at Holyrood bar one – the Tories.
“Let’s call them out on that,” Baillie said. “It was done without consultation, it was one in a way that will have a devastating impact on woman born in the 1950s. Iain Duncan Smith promised a review in 2011, that was five years ago. Why are we still waiting?”
“This is simply a matter of fairness and justice” she added.
SNP minister Jeanne Freeman, herself affected by the change, called on the many women affected to “join us in what is a right and just campaign”.
Deidre Brock, SNP MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, said the Tories were behaving “wickedly”.
She said: “It’s an interesting tactic from the Scottish Tories, trying to pretend they have nothing to do with their Westminster counterparts, but the women here know damn fine they are completely connected. For the Tory branch office in Edinburgh to pretend that they have nothing do with the outrage perpetrated on these women is wicked.”
A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “We don’t support this particular campaign – you’d think Jackie Baillie would realise that would make our attendance at something like this unlikely. Ruth Davidson has written to the Edinburgh branch of the organisation.”