Editorial: Can the plight of 4000+ Moray women be ignored?

On Monday the Editor looked at a ‘hot’ issue in the local council elections – today he ponders on what will test the resolve of candidates in the General Election.

IF EDUCATION IS the issue that is of utmost importance in the local government elections on May 4, then turning to the General Election a month later, what matters most in Moray?

I think it would be fair to say that here we are looking at a two-horse race – or, as many SNP supporters might rightly point out, a race where one of the candidates is carrying a heavy handicap in the form of a 9000+ majority to overcome.

However, while the SNP will try hard to avoid mention of it, Referendum2 will still be an issue – it does appear to be one that Conservatives canvassing on behalf of Douglas Ross will bang on about at every door they get an answer to.

There is, though, one issue that could very well be a bit of a dark horse in this particular race – that of the plight of over 4000 ‘senior’ electors in the Moray constituency, those who have found themselves battling against all the odds to get the Tories to act on but with little success so far.

These are the women who were told that they had to wait five years longer or more to receive their state pensions. They are the very vocal group led by the local branch of the national WASPI movement – and not since the suffragettes have we seen such a determined group of unhappy female citizens.

Angus Robertson has already pledged his support to WASPI’s Moray group – Douglas Ross, on the other hand, has met group leaders but been very, very quiet on the subject (well, mute actually), indicating, perhaps, that he has no intention of going against a major policy decision by his masters in London.

WASPI will almost certainly ensure that in any Hustings, Douglas can expect to be questioned on his real thoughts over an issue that has a direct and painful effect on the financial wellbeing of 4000 plus voters in Moray. And make no mistake, if rallied on this issue, most of them will vote.

Nationally, WASPI will see the general election as an opportunity to pile pressure on Conservative candidates wherever they may be – and that could prove extremely awkward as they have two choices.

They can do what politicians do, and simply lie – saying that they will do “all they can” to argue the WASPI case if elected.

Or, they can be honest in the realisation that this very significant and influential group actually have a case, and say so.

While some reading this will very likely contend that it is right and proper that the retirement age for women be brought into line with men, those arguing that will rarely take into account the unjust nature of how this realignment took place.

Regardless of your age, just imagine if you had worked away since you were 15 or 16, then in your mid-50’s you were looking forward to retiral – only to be told first that it was being put back by a couple of years, and just when you adjust to that, told wait, sorry, we’re putting you back another couple of years.

Compensation? None. Interim arrangements? None. In fact, in many cases not even full disclosure as letters supposedly informing future pensioners of these changes mysteriously went missing, with most only finding out by reading it in the press.

So, a major General Election issue in Moray? I believe it will be, and it could well be the one that blocks the Conservative chances of making real inroads in this part of the world.