MP won’t engage with WASPI campaigners

Borders WASPI campaigners outside the Pensions Fair in Kelso.
Borders WASPI campaigners outside the Pensions Fair in Kelso.

Relations between Borders MP John Lamont and local WASPIs have deteriorated to such an extent that Mr Lamont has said he will no longer engage with the group.

There are over 7000 women in the Borders, born in the 1950s, who are experiencing delays to their State Pension age, of up to six years, with little or no notice of the changes.

A national campaign WASPI (Women against State Pension Inequality) says it is not against bringing women’s SPA into line with men’s, but rather the unfair and unequal way it has been implemented.

The Borders WASPI branch had their request for a stall at John Lamont’s recent Pensioners Fair at Kelso turned down and a statement said:“Left with no other option, since they were being excluded, members of the group and their supporters stood outside handing out fliers which advertised drop-in sessions and invited ladies to “come and have a chat”.

“All they wished to do was raise awareness to women suffering as a result of the lack of notice about the changes to their SPA that they are not alone and without a voice.”

“I am happy to assist any constituents who are having problems with their pensions and my door remains open,” said Mr Lamont.

“However, I will no longer be engaging with the official WASPI campaign, which has clearly become a political campaign group.

“Many protestors were wearing SNP badges and I understand that an SNP councillor even attended the protest and contacted the papers about it afterwards. “Sadly, WASPI do not represent my constituents and actions like this are doing their cause no good.

“I had a number of complaints from pensioners who said they felt intimidated and uncomfortable by the protestors shouting and blocking the entrance to the hall.

The Borders WASPI group say they want Mr Lamont to demonstrate some commitment to finding a solution and to keep to his election promise of ‘People before Policy’.

“The only option that he has put forward to the women that have approached him at his surgeries is to contact the Scottish Government who he claims can take steps to mitigate the problem.

“Pensions are part of Westminster Policy which is reserved and if the Scottish Government were to try to mitigate this they would be taken to the Supreme Court as they cannot set up an age-related benefit. This is a national campaign not just a Scottish Issue.

“The biggest problems have been caused because the implementation of pension equalisation was speeded up twice with little or no communication. This meant that many women only found out about the changes as they approached their 60th birthdays and had a huge impact on their finances and retirement plans.

“It has also to be remembered that many of these ladies do not have a private pension as this was not available or encouraged through their working lives. Many gave up work to raise their children and in later years have given up work to care for other family members.

“The afternoon spent outside the Tait Hall was good natured and productive.”