The Daily Mail today tried to have a go at Believe in Scotland's campaign to end pensioner poverty, but their incredibly muddled attack produced a factually incorrect headline and an article that is incoherent and contradictory.
Let’s be clear, they tried to write an article about Believe in Scotland, but we supplied them with the facts about pensions and they then tried to tie us into an earlier attack on the SNP. First, let’s deal with the claim about Believe in Scotland in the factually incorrect headline which states, “Nationalist Group ‘systematically deceiving OAPs’ after falsely claiming UK “worst in world”.
The problem with the headline is that the UK pension is the worst in the developed world, and that is what we have correctly claimed. So, we will be writing to the Editor and demanding the paper prints a retraction or allows us the right to reply.
According to the OECD research that we based our claims on, the UK pays the worst basic state pension in the developed world, worth just 28.4% of average income at retirement (based on the net replacement rate). Furthermore, The House of Commons Library confirmed the 28.4% and further revealed that the UK state pension falls significantly below the OECD average of 58.6% but also the EU average of 63.5%.
So, to claim that the basic state pension is the worst in the developed world is wholly accurate. The Daily Mail headline seems to be based on claims that if you include wealthy people’s voluntary pensions contributions then people are better off - but that has nothing to do with the fact that the UK basic state pension is woeful and degrading to those who can't afford voluntary work and private pensions.
When voluntary pension provision is included, the UK’s net replacement rate rises to 61% compared to the higher 67% EU average but the UK Governments basic state pension still sits at 28.4%. In other words, as many people can’t afford private pensions or to stay opted into voluntary employee pensions, the 28.4% figure is shameful and cannot be ignored.
People who retired before the New State Pension (2019) and the opt-out company contribution scheme came into force or those that were not paid enough and had to opt-out of voluntary pension schemes receive far less than the EU average. The lower replacement rate of the state pension penalises people who have experienced long periods of unemployment, carers (mostly females from less affluent households), women who take career breaks to raise children, people with disabilities or long-term illness and the working poor, all of whom have been let down by successive Westminster Governments.
So, the Daily Mail article (which was triggered by Unionist groups social media trolling) seems to be suggesting that we don’t need to pay enough for pensioners on the basic state pension to live with dignity as wealthy people are not affected - that is a truly disgusting attitude.
Even more of a muddle
The second part of the article, which is even more muddled, suggests our campaign to raise the basic state pension is SNP propaganda. But our policy of a £210.00 pension is not supported by the SNP and our campaign is clearly partially aimed at persuading the SNP to agree with us. If we were an SNP front, then disagreeing so publicly with the SNP might not be such a priority for us. Also, the SNP are attacked in the article for saying “The UK owes people a pension and will keep paying people pensions after independence”. Let’s be clear, the UK does owe people a pension (if they have made their NIC contributions). However, we believe that an independent Scotland should a) Take on full responsibility for payment of pensions and b) Inform the UK Government that we will subtract the cost of this pensions from any debt settlement (matched to asset settlements) agreed during the independence settlement negotiations that will follow a Yes vote in 2023. So, we are totally at odds with the SNP on pensions and we try to influence them, not the other way around.
They also say that Believe in Scotland is “closely linked to Business for Scotland… the economic think tank set up before the 2014 referendum”. However, we emailed them and explained ahead of the article being written that “Business for Scotland Ltd is a business networking and campaigning organisation that supports independence and champions the Wellbeing approach to economics. It operates completely independently from any political party. Believe in Scotland is the name of one of our campaigns.” How hard would it have been to get that right?
They did carry a quote from our Chief Executive - the only part of the article that makes sense - he said:
Believe in Scotland are campaigning to end the UK’s degrading pensioner poverty in an independent Scotland by paying a Real Living Pension (currently £210.00 per week), then raising the state pension to match the EU average as the economy grows over time with the powers of independence.
For unionist campaigners to claim that the 28.4% figure is irrelevant because it doesn't apply to the wealthy, simply shows how out of touch they are with the needs of pensioners. Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, Chief Executive of Business for Scotland.
The plethora of childish complaints about our campaigns (in papers such as The Daily Mail and The Times) all originate from trolling by the many fake-grassroots unionist front organisations and represents a desperate attempt to deflect from the investigations into their dark money funding and potentially illegal campaigning.
If they were anything other than smoke and mirrors operations for Westminster's economic and moral failures, they would spend their time pressuring the UK Government to match our call for a £210.00 a week basic state pension to allow our old folk to live with dignity but that is just clearly not on the Unionist agenda.