Category Archives: Referendum

What does a yes or no vote mean for disabled people in Scotland?

A recent survey found that almost three-quarters of people living with a disability in Scotland feel that their voice has not been heard in the referendum debate so far.

DSCN6709Fears about the ongoing reform of the welfare system, their ability to live independently, and the social care support on offer were the most pressing concerns given by those questioned in the survey.

Therefore, Disability Agenda Scotland (DAS) – a consortium of Scotland’s leading disability charities that cover everything from sensory loss to physical disability, learning disability and mental health organised a hustings to consider the question: What does a yes or no vote mean for disabled people in Scotland?

Anne appeared on the panel on behalf of Better Together. In delivering the opening statement, she spoke of the need to achieve social justice and civil rights for disabled people across the UK.

DSCN6706She highlighted that the Tory/Lib Dem welfare reforms have disproportionately affected disabled people but she said that a change of policy would improve the lives of people living with a disability rather than a change of the constitution. She also pointed out that welfare is currently distributed based on need rather than a postcode lottery and, therefore, being part of the UK has benefited Scotland as it has allowed resources to be pooled and shared leading to higher public spending in Scotland.

Anne also spoke of the achievements in civil rights for disabled people that have taken place over the last thirty years by people like Alf Morris and Bert Massie who fought for the rights of disabled people across the UK. And, while people with disabilities have difficulties getting their voice heard, she highlighted that it doesn’t matter whether they are trying to lobby Westminster or Holyrood. To make a real difference, there have to be changes to policies and politics to engage with disabled people rather than independence for Scotland.

DSCN6727She finished by saying that a yes vote is a gamble and often when gambling it’s those who have the least that lose out which means that disabled people will lose out. She believes that more will be achieved by standing shoulder to shoulder with disabled people across the UK and that’s why she is voting no.

Women Should Speak Up for ‘No’

Anne was delighted to host a meeting of her Women’s Forum with guest speaker Margaret Curran MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.Womens Forum July 2014 (2)

The main discussion surrounded the referendum on 18th September and why women are supporting the No campaign because it offers the best future for women across Scotland.

Margaret Curran also took the opportunity to showcase Scottish Labour’s five pledges for women. She said: “A year from now, I want to be Secretary of State for Scotland in a Labour Government. The first woman to hold that position in 12 years and only the second woman ever. Improving the lives of women across Scotland will be high on my agenda from day one in the Scotland Office.

That is why I have already set out an ambitious plan for the next Labour government in Scotland. One that gets to grips with the pay gap. That deals with the injustice of 5000 women being forced out of work after maternity leave. And makes sure that from our Parliament to our public bodies, we have truly equal representation, so that we properly represent the communities we serve.

This is real change that we can guarantee for women across Scotland less than a year from now.” Womens Forum July 2014

You can read Scottish Labour’s five pledges for women in full here: http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/blog/entry/labour-launches-five-pledges-to-scotlands-women

Anne’s Women’s Forum meet regularly to discuss any issues affecting them in a relaxed and informal environment. If you live in Aberdeen South and are interested in being added to the mailing list for Anne’s Women’s Forum, please contact Kathryn Russell at russellk@parliament.uk.

Margaret Curran MP & Dame Anne Begg MP with a few of the women who attended
Margaret Curran MP & Dame Anne Begg MP with a few of the women who attended

Being Part of the UK Protects the Occupational Pensions of Hard Working Aberdonians

Being part of the UK protects the pensions of hard-working people in Aberdeen, a new European Union report confirmed.

In a devastating blow to the nationalist case for separation, it is now clear that breaking up the UK means the defined benefit pension schemes of people in Aberdeen could close.

European Commission Memo/14/239 confirms that cross-border pension schemes must be fully funded. Today this law does not apply to pension schemes based elsewhere in the UK but operating in Scotland, since we are one state in the EU.

If Scotland leaves the UK we would become foreign countries, meaning pension schemes operating across Scotland and the continuing UK would need to be fully funded. A number of impartial and independent experts have said that separating from the UK could mean pension schemes in Aberdeen would have to close.

Earlier this month senior SNP Ministers claimed that the matter would be resolved and that it would be alright on the night, however the publication of this memo makes clear that leaving the UK would put the pensions of hard working people in Aberdeen at risk.

Aberdeen South MP and Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Dame Anne Begg said:

“The pensions system in the UK works well through the pooling of resources, where the rewards are shared via sensible and efficient risk sharing. This protects the occupational pensions of people in Aberdeen who have worked all their lives to enjoy retirement.

“The EU has confirmed that Scottish company defined benefit pension schemes must overnight, if we leave the UK, fill a huge funding black hole. The implications for people in Aberdeen who are members of these pension schemes and for the companies themselves are huge.

“It’s now clear beyond doubt that independence puts the pensions of hard working Scots at risk.

“Filling the pensions black hole would come at huge cost to the companies and their employees, or would mean the break-up of these pension schemes. People in Aberdeen have a choice – believe the experts or believe Alex Salmond on pensions.”

Scotland Accountants Say Pensions at Risk with Independence

When Scotland’s accountants enter the referendum debate Scots sit up and listen. So this week’s Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland (ICAS) report on pensions in a separate Scotland is significant.

In advance of the SNP’s white paper last year ICAS published a comprehensive account of the questions which leaving the UK poses for Scots pensions. Just wait for the white paper was the SNP response. Well ICAS did and this is their considered view.

There is something bigger at stake here however than shredded nationalist credibility. Pensions are an insurance policy against poverty in old age. Across the UK for a century we have each paid our share. Sharing risks so that we can all enjoy greater reward. We built this pensions system together across the UK. We all contribute together. Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents helped build a system where everybody from Wick to Walsall can be sure of dignity in retirement. We built it up together over 100 years. Governments come and go but the sharing remains. The Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Irish people who built this system did so on the basis that we share our resources so that those in need get what they need.

As a United Kingdom we spend far more on the state pension and associated pensioner benefits than in any other area of social security. Last year alone £8bn (£6 million in constituency Aberdeen South alone) was redistributed to our poorest pensioners through Labour’s pension credit and the total redistributed to poor pensioners is almost £75bn since Gordon Brown introduced the top up in 2003.

The UK regulatory architecture protects the pensions of Scots wherever they live across the UK. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) together provide a UK wide firewall for Scots against the loss of pension savings.

The PPF pays pensions to UK workers who otherwise would lose their pension savings when their employer went bust. Just ask the Ayrshire steel workers left high and dry and facing a retirement in penury when Allied Steel went bust. Steel workers who had paid into their pension for a lifetime were suddenly faced with losing everything. Until the PPF stepped in. Or ask the British and Irish workers what happened when Waterford Crystal went bust. While Waterford’s UK employees are protected by the PPF, its Irish workers continue to this day their legal fight to get the pension they paid for and were promised. Every year 16 000 Scots pensions are paid and managed by the PPF.

The UK pensions system, which Scots helped build together with our partner nations, demonstrates why pooling our resources at the UK level is not just sensible, but a statement of our common values. It ensures uniformity of provision for Scots even as the cost of dignity in old age for Scots pensioners whether through illness, disability or poverty associated with illness and disability.

Our system is not perfect nor is the system in any nation; but we work hard together, generation by generation, to improve it. We built it together across these islands. A shared vision sustains the pension system –  a shared commitment to a dignified retirement based on sharing our resources in the long term so all can enjoy a dignified retirement. The UK system is built, it is sustainable and it has a broad spread population to support it; a system built through the generations and there for the generations to come. That’s something worth celebrating.

You can read the full report from ICAS here: http://icas.org.uk/News/Latest_News/Pensions_questions_not_answered_-_ICAS/

National Voter Registration Day

On the 5th of February 1832, the Great Reform Act introduced voter registration for the very first time. Then, the number of eligible voters in a borough varied from six to 12,000, with the selection of some Members of Parliament controlled by one person. We have come a long way since then, but there is still much more we can do.

In 2010, only 44% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, while 76% of those aged 65 and over cast their vote. At the moment, only half of all young people are registered to vote. Certain groups are disproportionately under-represented. Only 56% of people living in private rented homes are registered. Nearly half of those not registered to vote mistakenly believe that they are.

We must try and do better. The electoral register performs a hugely important civic function. You can only vote, and choose the politicians who represent you, if you are on the register.  It also ensures citizens are properly counted for the drawing of political boundaries – by ward and constituency – meaning the voice of Aberdeen South is heard. For our criminal justice system, the register enables selection for jury service.

Remember, on Thursday 18th September 2014, a referendum will take place to decide the future of Scotland. The voting age for the referendum will be 16 years old and over, but anyone wishing to vote in the referendum must be registered.

Further, from next year, each individual will have to register, rather than the traditional method of a household survey. To register and to ensure you have a voice, simply visit AboutmyVote.co.uk, or contact Grampian Electoral Registration Office on 01224 664848.