I was asked to give evidence to the Committee, a video of this evidence can be found by clicking here.
I closed this Government debate and a video of my speech can be found by clicking here.
SNP MSP for Argyll and Bute, Michael Russell has welcomed latest figures that show a steep decline in recorded crime across Argyll and Bute since the SNP came to power in 2007.
Recorded crime in Argyll and Bute has fallen by 50% in the ten years between 2006/07 and 2015/16, part of a nationwide fall of 41%. Local MSP Michael Russell believes this shows the success of SNP policies in policing and justice.
Commenting, Michael Russell MSP said:
“These are welcome figures that show a steep fall in recorded crime in the period since the SNP entered office in 2007 – and shows that SNP policies, such as having more police officers, have made our communities safer.
“It is excellent to see a decline in recorded crime of 50% across Argyll and Bute, part of a Scotland-wide picture that shows an overall fall of 41% since 2006/07.
“Having safe communities where everyone feels welcome are vital to creating the Scotland that we all want to see – and these figures show that, under the SNP, we have made significant progress in achieving this goal.”
The Scottish National Party has today unveiled independent research showing Tory figures on pension inequality are wrong and have called for immediate action to help the millions of women born in the 1950s who have been denied their pension.
The 2011 Pensions Act accelerated planned increases in women’s State Pension Age from 63 to 65 between April 2016 and November 2018, and from 65 to 66 by October 2020 – many women were never told of the changes and some women will now receive their state pension years later than they expected to.
The issue, which effects 2.6 million women in the UK including 4,600 in Argyll and Bute, has been widely debated in the House of Commons and the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) groups have worked tirelessly to campaign for the introduction of transitional measures but the UK Government has refused to act – saying that, at a cost of £30 billion it would simply be too expensive to correct their mistakes of the past.
But independent research by Landman Economics has found that it would cost £8 billion to return to the original timetable set out in the 1995 Pensions Act – a significantly cheaper option for the UK Government which would go some way to ending the gross injustice served to these women and would help to alleviate pensioner poverty.
The National Insurance Fund (NIF) had a £20.9 billion surplus at the end of March 2015 and the latest forecasts project a surplus of £26.3 billion at the end of this year and £30.7 billion at the end of 2017/18.
Michael Russell MSP for Argyll and Bute said:
“I welcome the report produced independently and commend the efforts of Mhairi Black MP and Ian Blackford MP in supporting millions of women across the UK, including 2,600 in Argyll and Bute who have been left in this awful situation.
The Conservative Government now have before them a number of clear and concise proposals that would correct this situation and improve the lives of all those affected and I would hope that they will waste no time in fixing their mistakes.”
Ian Blackford MP, the SNP’s Pensions spokesperson, said:
“A pension is not a privilege, it is an entitlement and yet millions of women born in the 1950s are struggling to make ends meet because they are being denied their pension – many women are facing real hardship and they need action now.
“The Tories have tried to wash their hands of this crisis but that is simply not good enough which is why the SNP decided to do the work for them. Our independently researched report reveals the five options immediately available to the UK Government to deliver dignity in retirement for the 2.6 billion women affected and ensure that the mistakes of the past are corrected.
“The second option would allow a return to the 1995 Pensions Act and would slow the rise of the state pension age for women to reach 65 by 2021. At £8 billion, this option is the second most expensive but it pales in comparison to the £30 billion figure often used by Tory politicians attempting to absolve themselves of any responsibility.
“The National Insurance Fund is billions of pounds in surplus and can be only be used to pay for contributory benefits such as the State Pension.
“Millions of pensioners, workers and their employers have no idea that the money they are paying in National Insurance contributions every month is not being used to pay higher pensions and benefits. The Tories have nowhere to hide anymore: they can afford to right the wrong that is impacting millions of women because they are being refused access to their pension and they must take immediate action.”
Mhairi Black MP said:
“Not only have these women had their retirement plans completely shattered, they were also badly let down by a UK Government that failed to adequately inform them of the changes. And when you consider that women have historically been paid lower wages than their male counterparts or faced greater expectations to be the primary care giver it is clear to see that these women have been treated appallingly by this and previous UK Governments.
“£8 billion is not a small amount of money but it is a drop in the ocean for this Tory Government that thinks nothing of spending £167 billion on their nuclear-obsession by renewing the obsolete Trident weapons system – that’s twenty times the cost of ending pension inequality for these women.
“I hope that the UK Government will welcome this report and at last act to end the gross injustice these women are being forced to bear.
“If the Prime Minister is to live up to her rhetoric of working “not for the privileged few” it is time to end this inequality and deliver for the women of the 1950s.”
SNP Westminster Media – 0207 219 0842
- The report will be launched on Wednesday 21st September at 10am at the Social Market Foundation, 11 Tufton Street, London. To request a copy of the report please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- A photo-call with members of the WASPI campaign groups will be held on College Green at 12 noon.
- The NIF surplus was £23.2 billion at the end of 2013/14, falling to £20.9 billion at the end of 2014/15 2015. GAD’s latest forecasts project a surplus of £25.7 at the end of 2015/16, £26.3 billion at the end of 2016/17 and £30.7 billion at the end of 2017/18, based on prevailing NIC rates.
- Any surplus within the National Insurance Fund can only be used for contributory benefits and the State Pension falls into this category.
Report author Howard Reed is Director of the economic research consultancy Landman Economics (www.landman-economics.co.uk), which specialises in policy analysis and complex econometric modelling work coupled with a progressive political perspective. Prior to founding Landman Economics in 2008, Howard’s previous jobs held senior economist positions at the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Recent clients for Landman Economics research include the trade union sector (Trades Union Congress, Unite and Unison), government (Equality and Human Rights Commission, Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission), the health and social care sector (Action on Smoking and Health, the EPSRC Care Life Cycle project at the University of Southampton) and charities and campaigning organisations (Oxfam, Save the Children, Women’s Budget Group). Howard main’s areas of expertise include taxation, labour market policy, health economics, inequality and fiscal policy.
I closed this Government debate and a video of my speech can be found by clicking here.
I opened this debate and the video can be found by clicking here.
MICHAEL RUSSELL MSP WELCOMES NATIONAL LOAN SCHEME TO SUPPORT RURAL ECONOMY
Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has welcomed a new loan scheme which will provide certainty for farmers and crofters over winter 2016 and seek to inject up to £300 million into the rural economy, safeguarding jobs and local agricultural businesses.
Farmers and crofters will be able to apply for a loan of 80% of their CAP Basic Payment and Greening 2016 entitlement, up to a maximum of €150,000 and receive their loan payments in November.
Farmers will not have to wait until 2017 to receive payment of their CAP entitlement. Letters will be issued before the end of the month to farmers inviting them to apply. Everyone who applies by the deadline of 12 October will receive a loan of 80% of their entitlement in November.
Details of the nationally-funded loan scheme for CAP Basic Payment 2016 were unveiled by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing.
SNP MSP Michael Russell commented:
“Having learned lessons from the 2015 round of CAP payments, the Scottish Government is determined to provide as much certainty as possible – not just for farmers and crofters, but for the wider economy in rural communities such as Argyll and Bute.
“Over 17,000 businesses across Scotland, including many in Argyll and Bute, will be entitled to qualify for this loan initially, with work continuing to make offers and payment to the remaining eligible businesses by the end of the year.
“I would therefore encourage everyone eligible to apply for this funding, which will give our farmers and crofters the security and certainty they need to enable them to plan for the year ahead while driving forward the rural economy.”
Under this nationally-funded Scottish Government scheme any farmer and crofter who is eligible for a payment will receive a letter and be able to apply for a loan.
The loan scheme has been designed such that the applicant’s Basic and Greening payment should be more than the Loan scheme sum paid to them. At the point of the CAP 2016 payment being made, the Scottish Government will therefore deduct the sum and pay the remainder of their Basic and Greening payment in to their bank account. The sum paid will be interest free to the applicant, although the Scottish Government will record the notional interest as a de minimis state aid.
It is the responsibility of each farmer/crofter to keep a record of all state aid to their farm business under all schemes.
Figures are based on current £/€ exchange rates and are subject to change. Final figures will depend on the official CAP exchange rate which the European Commission will confirm at the end of September.