Margo MacDonald: Over-65s needn’t settle for poverty

Working into old age should be a choice, not a necessity. Picture: PA
Working into old age should be a choice, not a necessity. Picture: PA
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Who wants to work after 65? Quite possibly, most of us, for as many reasons as you could imagine. How many people work even part-time, whose health and energy isn’t really up to it but who have no choice other than to work because they are too poor?

Reliable surveys by Prudential, for example, have turned up information showing the number of working pensioners increasing by more than 20 per cent a year. This is probably directly attributed to what Prudential reports as the loss to the value of their pension savings pot due to recession. Quite apart from the strain on the nerves and wellbeing of pensioners with no choice but to work, they are likely to be less productive, and more reliant on NHS resources than workers in the prime of their working lives.

This is the present and future financial environment that Better Together assures us is the safer, more secure way to manage the pensionable years . . . just how it is, with ultimate power being exercised by the parliament and government in Westminster.

Young workers urgently need a massive strategy shake-up, devised for particular Scottish employment and industry needs. The Changing Face of Youth Unemployment in Scotland by the Scotland Institute found that increasingly, young Scots are becoming de-skilled. A worrying number ended up in short-term, part-time, semi-skilled or unskilled jobs. Most had no long-term goal achievable after study or training. The average number of hours worked by young people is not rising. Today, they only work 29 hours per week on average compared with 35 hours in 1999. But the reality is hidden behind Westminster government zapped-up statements about more people being in employment.

This is the prospectus offered by the pro-union side in the referendum, the people who tell you the British economy is a better, surer way of getting the best out of your money, and your vote, at the referendum.

But surely things can only get better, as Labour’s campaign song promised? Well no. Under Labour’s so-called Iron Chancellors, Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling, government borrowing soared to unheard of heights. Also, much more personal debt was undertaken. Meanwhile the fantasy feelgood factor was being sold to us by the government.

But the truth is that unemployment figures are flattered into looking hopeful because of short-time, or underemployed working. You find that hard to believe? You think you’re better to put your trust into the British way of doing things? So how do you square the circle of supposedly steady unemployment figures with steadily falling household incomes?

That can have only one answer –incomes are falling. Britons are getting poorer. So why should anyone living in Scotland choose poverty rather than comfort? That is what is on offer from Better Together. These are a few facts and figures on the economy that are no doubt swept aside by the stay-as-we-are brigade with their boasts of punching above our weight on the international stage.

Well, if the cost of David Cameron strutting Britain’s stuff at so-called world summits, that rarely achieve much, is pensioners having to work when they’re not really fit to do so, and young people whose lack of training leaves them unfit for work, we can’t afford to say anything other than “Yes” to running our own show with policies devised for Scotland funded by Scotland’s resources.

Leave the war against the terrorists to the experts

If David Cameron tried to act out a “hands-on” approach to the police and security services investigation to the atrocity of Lee Rigby’s murder, he’d probably be told to leave them to do the job in which they’re the experts. The Prime Minister, government and parliament will play their parts after some conclusions have been reached by the people trained and trusted to keep the community safe.

Anti-terrorism experts stress the need to get back to normal running of organisations, services and personal life following a terrorist attack or attempt. If the Prime Minister had cancelled his break in Ibiza, the terrorists would have succeeded in disrupting his plans because he had overlooked the role of his experts.

It’s specialist teams that win wars. No one person can be on duty round the clock. TV and other instant media exaggerate and dramatise the role of politicians when it’s the experts behind the scenes, unknown to the media, who crack the cases and produce the preventative measures.

Winston Churchill, above, towered over the leadership of the Allies against Hitler. Pictures of him on the ground, round the clock, helped reassure people just managing to hang on during the war. Yet no one criticised him when he took a few days holiday in Palm Beach in 1942.

Nor were the Chiefs of Staff criticised when they were posted Gone Fishin’ a year later.

And they won the war.