Protesters feel robbed by state pension changes
About 30 people gathered at noon on Saturday to protest against state pension changes – and ongoing austerity measures.
The nationwide protest has been triggered by the growing anger linked to the fact that the age women can claim their state pension has been raised.
Women born in the 1950s are among the worst hit. They anticipated being able to retire at 60 but now face an extra six years of work before they get the state pension.
Ann Leask, 63, was among the group that congregated at the Tesco roundabout to demonstrate against the changes. She said: “We have been robbed of six years of our pension and they [the Westminster government] are trying to cut everywhere, childcare and early education. It is all wrong and a step backwards.”
She said she was protesting in the hope the retirement age would be reduced to 62 or 63. Asked if that was realistic, she said: “Not with the way the Tories are spending our money.”
Hayley Leaper, 31, is equally angry. She said: “The government were aware of the ageing population. They were aware the crisis was coming and refused to do anything about it.
“They accepted people paying in [to pensions] but are not prepared to pay out. It’s stealing.”
Fellow protester Sheena McLaughlin-Cook is 65 but is not yet in receipt of a state pension. She said: “I am very disappointed that nobody is paying our pension to us. People like [SNP MP] Mhairi Black have made impassioned pleas … but no action has been taken because we are a small number of people and we are female.”
Ms McLaughliun-Cook believes the gender issue is an important factor. “I believe in equality of men and women but [regarding the pension age] we got jumped up six years in a one-er”. That, she says, is not fair.
Dubbed a “wall of women”, because of the impact the changes have had on women’s pensions, did not stop several men joining the protest. Organiser Janet Ainsworth was delighted to see so many prepared to stand in a downpour to make their point.
She said it was a show of strength and anger from a relatively affluent community. “I’m overwhelmed,” she added. “This is the tip of the iceberg because of how we are feeling.”
• More in next week’s Shetland Times.