SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set out the SNP’s commitment to Scotland’s older people, including boosting their incomes; improving health and social care; and tackling isolation. The SNP Leader set out six key pledges for Scotland’s older people:
• Protect social benefits such as the concessionary bus pass and free personal care.
• Protect low income pensioners from Council Tax reforms and Labour’s proposed basic rate Income Tax hike.
• Use new powers over the Winter Fuel Allowance to pay it earlier to the almost 80,000 pensioner households in rural areas who live ‘off-grid’ and face higher costs.
• Provide resources for a new programme of financial health check-ups aimed at those on low incomes to further maximise older people's incomes.
• Guarantee the NHS with real-terms NHS budget increases every year of the next Parliament; increase the share directed at primary care, social care and mental health and invest £200 million in elective treatment centres to ensure faster, better care for planned operations such as hip and knee replacements and cataract procedures.
• We will review family law to ensure the interests of children in maintaining relationships with key family members, particularly grandparents. As well as protecting key social benefits that ensure older people can live independent, healthy and fulfilling lives a re-elected SNP Scottish Government will also continue to fund projects that tackle loneliness and isolation. Commenting, Ms Sturgeon 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. “If I am re-elected as First Minister I will make sure 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. “Not only will we protect older people's incomes but we will also seek to maximise them through providing financial health checks for low-income households. Raising the income and independence of older people is the key tackling social isolation. Our plans to review family law will ensure that grandparents’ rights are considered to retain contact with their grandchildren. “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.”