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Council / SIC has ‘sympathy’ for pension protesters, says convener

State pension protestors in Lerwick earlier this year. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News

THE CONVENER of Shetland Islands Council (SIC) says there is a “great deal of sympathy” within the local authority and its elected members for the ongoing local protest against changes to the state pension age for women.

Janet Ainsworth, from Vidlin, has led weekend protests at the Tesco roundabout at Lerwick since February over a change to the age women can claim their state pension.

The changes have been brought in by the gradual equalisation of the pension age for men and women by 2020. This was accelerated to 2018 by the 2011 Pension Act, which will also increase the pension age to 66 by October 2020 and to 67 by 2026.

Council convener Malcolm Bell: "We have been elected to represent the Shetland public, and people need to trust us to do just that.”SIC convener Malcolm Bell” ‘a great deal of sympathy’. Photo: Shetland News

These changes have seen some women, particularly those born in the 1950s, placed in a position where they have to work up to five years more before being able to claim the state pension.

Ainsworth wrote to SIC convener Malcolm Bell to express her wish for the council to publicly back the national protest.

She claimed that nationally nearly 160 councils had signed up to supporting the protesters’ plight.

Responding to her message, which also asked councillors to attend the latest protest at midday on Saturday, councillor Bell said:

“I think there is a great deal of sympathy within the council for the cause Mrs Ainsworth is promoting, but it is a matter for councillors to decide how to express that support individually or collectively.”