Beating The Pensions Argument
Posted on January 20th, 2017
Whether or not it is a fact, the pensions issue was deemed by many to be a weakness for us in IndyRef1, and it has raised its head again recently with a comment from the floor at the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) meeting last Saturday, about Better Together (BT) phoning pensioners to tell them their pensions were at risk in an Indy Scotland. I saw a few pics on Twitter, I think, of a letter issued to pensioners by the DWP itself. It confirmed what we know, that living in a separate country didn't endanger the payment of your UK pension.
How should we deal with this next time round? In line with many, I think canvassing for IndyRef2 should be more confident and assertive. I think we should raise the issue on the doorstep, particularly if the voters claim to have been contacted on this subject previously.
Canvasser; ' How were you contacted about this?'
Voter; ' I had a phone call/ I was told.'
Canvasser; ' Were you given any evidence. Did you see anything in writing?
Voter; ' No.'
Canvasser; ' You know why that is, don't you? Two reasons; because the evidence doesn't exist, and because whoever said it can deny it afterwards, there's no proof of the conversation.'
'But I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll get you the evidence, I'll get it in writing that your pension is not at risk in an Independent Scotland.'
At first I thought we should collect names and then send out a letter to them with the DWP logo. Probably not allowed, I know, but what can they do about it if it's done within the last week before the IndyRef? If we called it a vow we'd probably get away with it. There is a precedent, after all.
But then I thought, no, better to get a name and fill in a pro forma letter to the DWP and send it off to them, so they reply direct to the voter. From what I remember, there was no sign of a NI number on the letters the DWP sent to pensioners confirming that their pension was not at risk from Independence, and the enquiry is regarding a principle not an individual, so there's a chance that a name and address is all that would be needed.
So a standard letter, completed with a name, address and a signature could be taken away for posting, with the reply going to the voter direct from the DWP. Rather than posting, they could be collected at a central hub and couriered in boxes, to save on postage costs.
How would the DWP react? Well last time out they replied factually, so there's no reason they wouldn't do the same again. They could set up a template (perhaps it's already there on their system) and just complete the addressee, so their main gripe may simply be an extra workload one. The main objective would be achieved; pensioners would have the evidence in their own hands of their continuing income in an Independent Scotland.
But what if the number of enquiries got to the 250,000 mark, or even 500,000? After all, there's no age limit on enquiring to the DWP; it's perfectly legitimate for the under 60's to ask about this, even the under 50's.
Imagine, if this was done on a grand scale; the DWP could be inundated.
Would it be possible to get enough requests for confirmation on this question to be sent to the DWP that they eventually throw up their hands and issue a briefing to the effect that they guarantee your UK pension rights will be unaffected by Scot Indy? It's an intriguing thought, as it would remove one of the main planks of the BT argument from 2014, whether you think it made the difference between winning and losing or not.