Financial health checks for older people and reforms of the winter fuel allowance are among the measures the SNP is proposing to deliver a “better, fairer deal” for senior citizens, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister and SNP leader insisted her party would be “committed to improving the lives of all our older people” if re-elected in May.
She said financial check-ups would be brought in to maximise the incomes of elderly Scots, ensuring they are receiving all the cash to which they are entitled.
She also announced that when welfare powers are devolved to Holyrood, the winter fuel allowance - tax free payments of between £100 and £300 made to the elderly to help with heating bills - would be paid earlier to almost 80,000 pensioners in rural areas who are not connected to mains gas or electricity.
This would enable those in “off grid” homes to buy the fuel they need at a time of year when it is cheaper.
In addition, the SNP is pledging to protect benefits such as free bus passes and free personal care for the elderly, and says it will help low-income pensioners by not increasing the basic rate of income tax - something planned by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
Health spending will rise in real terms every year of the next parliament under an SNP Government, while the party is also promising to review family law to ensure children can maintain relationships with key family members, such as grandparents.
Ms Sturgeon has been campaigning in Irvine, North Ayrshire, in the run up to the May 5 election - the first in which she is running to be First Minister.
She said: “As a society we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our older people, who have not only worked hard and contributed to our economy but continue to make a valuable contribution to our families and communities, which is why the SNP has already done a lot for senior citizens.
“And if I am re-elected as First Minister I will make sure that their needs are at the forefront of the next Scottish Parliament so that we deliver an even better, fairer deal for all our older people.
“During tough financial times we will continue to protect the NHS with real-terms spending increases - ensuring more services are delivered in the community and more resources are dedicated to improving planned operations like hip or knee replacements.
“We will continue to protect key social benefits such as the concessionary bus pass and free personal and nursing care and will build on these gains of devolution with the new powers coming to Scotland.
“With the devolution of the winter fuel payment, after years of Westminster inaction, we can finally get a fairer deal for almost 80,000 ‘off-grid’ pensioner households who face higher costs.
“We’ll also ensure that low-income pensioners are excluded from council tax reform and protect them from Labour’s plans to hike the basic rate of income tax, which would hit the pockets of half a million older people in Scotland.”
“Giving both votes to the SNP to re-elect us will ensure a Scottish Government that is committed to improving the lives of all our older people.”