Scots Tory leader criticised for pensioner 'insult' and dodgy stats

By staff writers
11 Oct 2012

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has been challenged to outline how much more money she thinks should be taken away from OAPs.

Pensioners were among those whom Ms Davidson accused of not being ‘net contributors’ to Scotland's economy, in a controversial speech at the Conservative conference in Birmingham.

Critics have branded Ms Davidson's speech her "Romney moment", after she appeared to accuse 88 per cent of the Scottish population of freeloading. The US presidential contender only dismissed 47 per cent of his country's population, however.

But independent research published earlier this year demonstrates that UK Coalition policies announced in the last Budget will leave pensioners £900 worse off by the end of 2014.

Glasgow MSP Bob Doris has now written to Ms Davidson to remind her of the money that her governing party is already taking from Scotland’s pensioners, and demanding that she apologise for insulting them by saying that they do not 'contribute' to society.

Scottish pensioners are subject to Westminster policies, although both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are minority parties in Scotland.

Mr Doris, SNP Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, commented: “Scots who have worked hard all of their lives and paid their taxes deserve dignity and respect.

“It’s bad enough for Ruth Davidson to insult pensioners by telling them that they haven’t made a net contribution to society. But to do this while her own party is already reducing their income by hundreds of pounds every year frankly beggars belief.

“In Glasgow alone, pensioners will be £35 million worse off this year thanks to policies from the Tory-led Government at Westminster. This is money being taken from some of the most vulnerable people in our society, during the toughest economic period this country has seen since the Second World War.

“From the Granny Tax to changes in Winter Fuel Payments, it’s becoming clear that the Tories have an agenda to punish Scotland’s older people, but Ruth Davidson seemingly believes that they haven’t gone far enough.

“The onus on her now is to apologise to Scotland’s pensioners and explain exactly how much more money she thinks should be taken from them,” said Mr Doris.

Ms Davidson's claim that only 12 per cent of Scottish households 'make a net contribution' is "grossly misleading and inaccurate", Stephen Boyd, assistant secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, has claimed.

On 8 October 2012 he declared in the Guardian newspaper: "[A]ll the information sources cited are out of date. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures from the Effects of Taxes and Benefits on Household Income publication are drawn from the 2009/10 release; strange because the 2010/11 data have been available since June this year. Similarly, data from the joint Scottish government/ONS publication, Public Sector Employment in Scotland is taken from the Q1 2012 publication and not the Q2 data published a month ago. This explains why the figures for public sector employment used in [her] calculation are wrong...

"Davidson's calculation also references the ONS data on income for all households... failing to account for retired people. [But] the ONS provides such a breakdown in the very document she cites. The income of non-retired households is significantly higher than that for all households and would lead to very different findings."

Mr Boyd concluded: "The facts of the matter are that Scotland's public spending to GDP ratio is only slightly better or worse than that of the UK as a whole, depending on whether or not a geographical share of oil revenues is included in the calculation. Many of the most enduringly successful economies in the world manage to sustain public spending and public sector employment ratios at similar or higher levels."

[Ekk/3]

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