Labour has promised up to £31,000 compensation to the millions of women forced to work longer because of controversial increases in the state pension age.
The payments will be paid to women born in the 1950s who have lost up to six years of their state pension with little or no notice. Many have face poverty, hardship and the prospect of continuing working, often despite poor health.
The WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) women, including 300,000 in Scotland, would receive an average payout of £15,000 under Labour’s election pledge estimated to cost £58 billion – £5bn in Scotland – over five years.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the payouts were a “historic debt of honour” to the women and would be paid in the first five years of a Labour government.
McDonnell said: “We’ve prepared a scheme to compensate these women for a historical wrong.”
Nearly four million women have been affected by the state pension increases from 60 to 66, which were introduced by a Tory government in 1995 and accelerated in 2011 by David Cameron’s Tory-Lib Dem coalition government.
Scottish Labour deputy leader Lesley Laird said: “Labour has listened to the WASPI women betrayed by the Tories and we have recognised the need to correct this historical injustice.”
Last month, two women took the Department for Work and Pensions to court, arguing that raising their pension age “unlawfully discriminated” against them.
The case was dismissed by judges but campaigners vowed to fight on. In September, Ann Erskine, from Cowdenbeath, said the pension age increases had made her life an “absolute hell” after the death of her husband.
Ann lost her 73-year-old husband George in 2014 and was told just three days later to sign on and look for work.
She said: “I’d paid 44 years of National Insurance since leaving school but that didn’t count when it mattered most. I was just a number to them.”
During the Tory leadership election campaign in the summer, Boris Johnson said it was an issue he would “commit to doing everything I possibly can to sorting out”. But he backtracked on his pledge in a BBC Question Time leaders’ debate on Friday night. WASPI campaigner May Rookes, from Falkirk, asked him: “Are you still in that frame of mind? Are you going to take this pension issue forward?”
But Johnson replied: “I’m going to be honest with you, I can’t promise I’m going to magic up that money for you.”
Also during the Question Time debate, Johnson failed to apologise for previous remarks he made about Muslim women and gay men.
Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon said Johnson’s performance showed he “does not deserve” the chance to return to Downing Street as Prime Minister. Campaigning in Leven, Fife, she said: “Everything he has done in his short time in the job – including his illegal shutting down of Parliament – shows that. He is taking the Tories further and further to the right.”
In the televised debate, Sturgeon said she could foresee a “less formal” confidence and supply arrangement with the Labour Party if Jeremy Corbyn met her conditions on an independence referendum.
But Corbyn said he wouldn’t allow a vote “for at least two years” if he wins power on December 12.