HOW many times I have been appalled by the policies bought forward by Iain Duncan Smith, it is difficult to count. He was born in Auld Reekie, and served in the Scots Guards, but it would be difficult to say that he was not a “typical”, middle/upper class Tory from one of the home counties of England.

Some of the things that he and I disagreed upon would be the European Union (he is “Eurosceptic”, as they would say back in the days of John Major); and Universal Credit, making it more difficult for sick and disabled people to claim benefits and sending debt collectors to reclaim “overpaid” benefits.

When he was Work and Pensions Secretary the DWP published fake testimonies from people who said that they enjoyed having their benefits cut. His views on the adoption of children to gay and unmarried people made me so angry, I recall shouting back at my radio.

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One the first things he did as Work and Pensions Secretary was to make it illegal for companies to force people to give up work at the age of 65. Then he brought in rises to the state pension age that were provided by the Pensions Act 1995, and then his department produced the Pensions Act 2011, which accelerated the timetable of raising pension ages, so that women would get their state pension from April 2016 at the age of 63, and then from November 2018 from the age of 65. Duncan Smith wanted to go further and raise the pension age for women to 66 by October 2020, by which time the retirement age for men would also have reached 66 years.

So many women joined the organisation Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI). They claimed that the government failed to give them proper notification of the changes to the law. In 2020 the Court of Appeal decided that women had not been discriminated against. Many WASPI women continue their fight for justice although many have sadly past away whilst their retirement plans were ruined.

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Over in France, many people have been very angry about the retirement age going up from 60 to 62 years and then, more recently, the push to 64, and more recently still Macron, in the presidential campaign, proposed raising the retirement age to 65.

In Netherlands retirees get 101% of their wages as a pension, in Turkey they get 102% and Croatia people get 129% of their wages! By stark contrast, pensioners in the UK, according to the World Economic Forum website, receive the worst pension deal in the developed world (even taking into account that in the UK the NHS should care for us from the “cradle to the grave” with “free!” healthcare), UK pensions are just 29% of wages. EU countries on average pay 71%, in the USA it is 49% and in China people get 83%!

In my daily trawl through the news on Monday, Iain Duncan Smith’s face appeared alongside a caption saying that he thought the UK retirement age should be 75 years. On Saturday he made an appeal for benefits to be raised, in line with inflation, immediately. That may have been how this cropped up again.

I cannot say that I had ever thought of retiring, but sadly bits of my body are crumbling and frankly I feel lucky that the bit between my ears still has some functionality. I have not yet got to 75 but sadly there are many things beyond may capabilities now. How are you doing, you over-66s?

If you are a UK pensioner, here in Scotland, hanging onto your expenditure as best you can, without the “triple lock” that Sunak stole away a short time ago, remember that at the SNP conference, I think it was 2019, in Auld Reekie, it was made policy that in an independent Scotland pensions should be bought into line with those in Europe. The figure I heard quoted then was about £355.00 per week. Food for thought as the debate for indyref2 has begun.

Cher Bonfis
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