On Wednesday (June 29th) three campaigners from the Borders joined women from across the country at a demonstration outside the Palace of Westminster in support of women hit by the acceleration of the equalisation of the State Pension Age.
They were met by Borders MP Calum Kerr, who has also assisted the women in their efforts to set up a local branch of the national campaign Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI).
The three women – Gail Chandler, Lynne Craighead and Clair Ramage – attended the demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament to demand the UK government investigates transitional measures for 1950s-born women impacted by rapid rises in the state pension age.
Many women in their 60s, particularly those on lower incomes, have been adversely affected by these changes. Some have been forced to take on zero-hour contracts and claim Jobseekers Allowance after having to scrap their plans for retirement.
Within Calum Kerr’s constituency of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, an estimated 4,890 women are directly affected by these changes.
In January 2016 the SNP group at Westminster led a backbench debate and gained cross-party support when it called on the UK government to re-visit the transitional arrangements.
Speaking after the protest, Ms Ramage explained her reasons for attending –
“I had a contract with the government and they just ripped it up,” she said.
However the presence of so many women from across the country at the protest, which took place on College Green outside the Palace of Westminster, offered Ms Ramage hope.
“I just felt really sad about the whole thing, but also really elated that so many could come along and support us, given that many of the ladies simply couldn’t afford to come, which is so sad. They’d come from Aberdeen, the Central Belt, all over… it was totally inspiring.”
Mr Kerr outlined why he decided to support the group’s campaign –
“No one is against equalising the State Pension Age, but the manner in which the UK government has managed this transition has been appalling. The lack of communication and the limited notice provided to the women affected is disgraceful.”
“More than 2 million women paid their National Insurance contributions throughout their lives on the expectation that they would receive their state pension at a certain age, only for the goal posts to be moved by the government.”
“This ongoing refusal to deliver a fair outcome is an ethical failure on the part of the UK government,” he concluded.
The Scottish Borders branch of WASPI is now seeking to raise awareness of this issue in the region.
“Our next step is to try and galvanise support and get these women to pull together. We must not be isolated because as a group we can speak with one voice and we need to pull together and make ourselves heard,” said Ms Ramage.
Women who think they may be affected by this issue can make contact with the local branch of WASPI by firstname.lastname@example.org getting in touch via their Facebook page, or writing to the group care of the constituency office of Calum Kerr MP, 46 High Street, Galashiels, Scottish Borders, TD1 1SE.
Clair Ramage is available for interview. Contact details can be provided on request.
Attached photos show massed demonstrators from Scotland with SNP MPs and (from left-right) Clair Ramage, Calum Kerr, Gail Chandler and Lynne Craighead.