SCOTS will be hit disproportionately hard by the UK Government’s decision to raise the state pension age from 67 to 68 for six million men and women, it has been claimed.
Anyone aged between 39 and 47 will be affected by the change, which will now be phased in between 2037 and 2039, rather than from 2044 as originally planned.
Derek Mackay, the Scottish Finance Secretary, attacked the move, saying it would force millions of people to wait longer to access their state entitlement.
“This is particularly worrying given some parts of Scotland have low life expectancy due to historic and deeply-ingrained public health challenges,” he said.
The TUC echoed the point, saying that raising the state pension age “risks creating second-class citizens” as in large parts of the UK the state pension age would be “higher than healthy life expectancy”.
Labour said the move was “astonishing” given the recent reports that suggested increases in life expectancy were beginning to stall.
At Westminster, Theresa May was accused of “Tory trickery” by the SNP as the announcement came as Parliament wound down for the summer recess.
It was made by David Gauke, the Work and Pensions Secretary, who said, in a Commons statement, that the Government was accepting the recommendation made earlier in the year by the Cridland Review.
“As it makes clear, the increases in life expectancy are to be celebrated and I want to make clear that, even[with] the timetable for the rise that I’m announcing today, future pensioners can still expect on average more than 22 years in receipt of the state pension,” explained Mr Gauke.
“But increasing longevity also presents challenges to the Government. There is a balance to be struck between funding of the state pension in years to come whilst also ensuring fairness for future generations of taxpayers,” he told MPs.
The move will save the Treasury £74 billion by 2045/46 compared with the previous proposals.
Official forecasts say that the number of people over state pension age is expected to grow by a third between 2017 and 2042; from 12.4 million in 2017 to 16.9m in 2042.
“I want Britain to be the best country in the world in which to grow old, where everyone enjoys the dignity and security they deserve in retirement,” declared Mr Gauke.
“At the same time, we need to ensure that the costs of an ageing population are shared out fairly without placing an unfair tax burden on future generations.
“To deliver this, we need to make responsible choices about the state pension age and that is exactly what the Government is doing today,” insisted the Secretary of State.
His Labour Shadow, Debbie Abrahams, said the Tories talked about making Britain fairer but their pensions policy was “anything but fair”.
She said: “Most pensioners will now spend their retirement battling a toxic cocktail of ill health, with men expected to drift into ill health at 63 – five years earlier than this proposed quickened state pension age of 68 – while women expect to see signs of ill health at 64.”
But Mr Gauke hit back, saying Labour’s call to fix the state pension age at 66 was “reckless, short-sighted and irresponsible” in the face of an ageing population and which would add £250bn to national debt.
For the SNP, Kirsty Blackman condemned the move as “utterly shameful” and suggested the Government had delayed publication until after the General Election to avoid losing “even more seats”.
She later claimed: “What we have witnessed today is an example of Tory trickery at its very worst.”
The party’s economics spokeswoman said the SNP had long called for the establishment of an independent Savings and Pensions Commission to consider responsibly pensions policies to ensure they were fit for purpose and took into account demographic needs.
“The last-minute announcement raises serious concerns over the detrimental impact this change to the state pension age will have on people in different parts of the UK. The UK Government must make clear whether there will be measures brought forward that will address the potentially severe impact this will have on people in Scotland,” Ms Blackman added.
But in the Lords Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the former Treasury minister, suggested the Prime Minister should have gone further
“Why isn’t the Government going faster and bringing these changes in more quickly and perhaps going further up the age range?” she asked.
Baroness Buscombe, the Work and Pensions minister, replied: “There’s no question that we should keep the whole issue of age and the state pension age under review.”