AFTER a life of contributing to society, whether that be working or volunteering, everyone deserves a secure retirement that allows them to travel, to spend more time with their children and grandchildren, or perhaps to fulfil some long-held plans.

That’s why recent proposals from think tank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) have received so much outcry. Their report this week recommended that, in line with rising life expectancy, the threshold for the state pension should rise to 70 by 2028 and then to 75 by 2035 for both men and women.

However, the idea that people are living longer and should therefore work longer is overly simplistic.

Although people are living longer than they did in previous decades, they are also living with more complex health needs. Our healthy life expectancy – the average person lives with good health until 62 in Scotland – means Scots would be expected to continue working or looking for work for 13 years in poor health before being able to retire on the state pension.

What’s more, for the first time in decades, life expectancy in Scotland is not improving. Just last week, the National Records of Scotland showed a small fall in Scottish life expectancy, already lower than for the UK as a whole.

And crucially, life expectancy differs hugely across the country, correlating strongly with levels of deprivation.

CSJ founder and chair Iain Duncan Smith was famously reduced to tears when he visited Easterhouse in Glasgow in 2002 as leader of the Conservative Party.

But in Easterhouse the life expectancy for a man is 69, six years before the age his think tank now suggests they should stop working. He would do well to reflect on how that 2002 visit made him feel before making those people work until they drop.

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If the state pension age was set at 75, with life expectancy at 77 for men and 81 for women, the average Scots man would only receive it for two years and a woman for six. In places like Easterhouse, they could miss out entirely.

In other words, the suggestion from the ironically named Centre for Social Justice would lead to a huge transfer of wealth from the poorest.

Many people will be in a position where they are too ill to work but not old enough to retire, forced to rely on Employment Support Allowance, which has been slashed over the past few years as a result

of the benefits freeze and the scrapping of the work-related activity premium, and which allows people to be sanctioned.

All that extra waiting time for one of the lowest state pensions in the EU, according to the House of Commons library. The UK state pension pays out only 24% of the average wage, compared to 60% in France and 70% in Spain.

Where this proposal comes from is not a surprise. As Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith was responsible for that benefit freeze as part of wide-ranging welfare reform including the ongoing disaster that is Universal Credit, which was originally a CSJ proposal.

Comments around the annual GERS figures this week suggested the UK Government deserved praise for reducing the fiscal deficit.

But that masks the immense human cost that has been paid to achieve that. The UN described Iain Duncan Smith’s legacy of welfare cuts as “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous”. It was, the UN rapporteur pointed out, social engineering. And so is this proposal on pensions.

The grounds on which the proposed change is justified are telling. The CSJ report describes the ageing population as a “fiscal pressure” that must be relieved by reducing pension spending.

But what is the rationale for singling out pensions spending? If the UK Government is looking for cuts, how about not driving the economy off a No-Deal Brexit cliff? Scrapping the £200 billion replacement for the entirely pointless but extremely dangerous Trident nuclear weapons system might also relieve some pressure.

As always, the Conservatives look to the most vulnerable in society to find their savings. In fact, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility predicts public spending on the state pension is expected to rise by less than 1% of GDP between 2017-18 and 2022-23.

And the pension system already contains inequalities that must be addressed. The Waspi women are facing financial hardship thanks to poorly notified reforms by successive UK Governments which left them with little time to prepare for working longer. The Pension Credit changes taking effect this month will lead to some couples losing out on up to £7000, with women being hardest hit once again.

Cast your mind back to 2014. Gordon Brown waved a memo from Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP and declared Scotland’s pensions would be safer in the United Kingdom. Like our membership of the EU, this proposal would leave that pledge in tatters.