30/11/2011 Newsnight Scotland


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were in 2006 and that is why we are calling it the last decade. -- lost


decade. Tonight on Newsnight Scotland:


More on the strikes over pensions. As hundreds of thousands walked out,


the Scottish government said it sympathises with them, but will


implement the pension changes anyway. Does its claim it doesn't


have a choice stand up? And there's another political row


as Labour and Green MSPs join the picket lines instead of taking part


in a Parliamentary debate on the pension changes. Were they right,


or is this a new low in gesture politics?


Good evening. Well, for most parents, thousands of patients


booked in for an operation and people who rely on public services


on a daily basis, and that's pretty much all of us, the message


certainly got across. The last time we saw anything approaching this


scale of widespread industrial action, most of our current crop of


fresh-faced politicians were still in nappies. There is the inevitable


war of words about how many people went on strike today. The Prime


Minister, adamant that pension reforms are both necessary and fair,


called it a damp squib. That's inflammatory, say the opposition.


Here, the Scottish Government accused the coalition of a cash


grab on pensions, but they did so having crossed picket lines at


Holyrood. We begin tonight by hearing from some of those the


length and breadth of the country Because of the bankers we are


having to pay more. The changes they are proposing will not make


I don't see why I should work all my days, or pay more money, more


taxes, more into my pension and get About 3 million people are taking


strike action in the United Kingdom today. I have never done this in my


life before and that is because we feel so strongly about our pensions


Union members are furious at the smash and grab robbery that the


coalition government headed in terms of the negotiations headed by


Danny Alexander. It felt appropriate to show the


demonstration our anger towards our I have received many comments from


members of the public supporting our action. I have been approached


by people in the private sector asking for away unions to contact


them so that they can protest as We deserve a pension. At the end of


the day, we work for it, we deserve it and we need it. We are the PDS.


We will not pay for the bankers's They want us to work longer for


less. The centrepiece of the day was a march to Holyrood but all the


major trade unions. They were met by Labour and Green MSPs, but the


SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories went about their business as


usual with a debate in the chamber about yes, you've guessed it,


pension reform. David Allison spent the day there.


The union's estimate was 10,000. The police said 7,000 marching down


the Royal Mile to Holyrood. More than 300,000 people are believed to


have gone on strike across Scotland over the UK government's pension


plans. The numbers are impressive and there is no doubting that


passion of the people turning out on the protest, but can they really


expect any U-turn from the government, given the current


financial climate. They will not listen. So why do it? We want them


to listen. The protest is about giving the negotiators in London


abode up confidence. Is there any scope for the note -- for


renegotiation, given the financial climate? Listen, I have been paying


attention since I was 19. It is my pension, not theirs. As an NHS


employee, we had paid more into the Treasury than we will take out.


Next year I am having a pay freeze which does nothing for my pension


pot. Members of the Green Party did not cross the picket line, unlike


Alex Salmond. He stressed the need to stop compulsory redundancies


before entering Parliament to work as normal. After passing in front


of the picket line, protesters gathered outside. Just because


things are bad in the private sector, it does not mean it should


be bad for everyone. Stop the lies and misinformation and get back to


serious negotiation! demonstration is against the UK


government, of course, but the protest is happening in Scotland


here at the Scottish parliament. So can the Scottish government redeem


bring its hands and say, it is nothing to do with us? They have


made it easier for us because they have been less redundancies in the


Scottish sector than in the English. There has been some protection, but


I would like to see them do more and I would like to see some


solidarity today. They should have closed parliament and come out here


and join us. Up on the Labour Party to say they support us rather than


just not doing anything about it. It is Westminster's fault. Here, if


they do not do as Westminster says, they will put a cap on funding.


That is the excuse of the Scottish government. This is a natural place


for asked to show our feelings, emotions about what the UK


government are trying to do to our pensions. And they are not doing


anything about the bankers still getting the big bonuses. They are


taking money from us to pay for the deficit. So, at their end of the


day, what was achieved? The Prime Minister claimed it was a damp


squib, but the unions insist up to 2 million people took part, making


it the largest day of action in decades. It is likely that it will


not be the last. I'm joined by three MSPs, all in


the capital. For Labour, their outgoing Scottish Leader Iain Gray,


for the SNP Kenny Gibson and for the Scottish Conservatives, Gavin


I didn't see any of them on the picket line. I don't see what was


achieved by not coming into Parliament. Iain Gray walked into


Parliament through the picket lines, and indeed, last March when they


went on strike. I don't understand the Labour Party mentality. Tonight,


I went to a seminar with 60 organisations that were there to


discuss health inequality, and there was not a single Labour MSP


there. I don't agree. Today's action was of a different order. In


Scotland, there will probably about 3 million across the UK. The public


sector workers are already making a significant contribution. We are in


the middle of a pay freeze, which is really a pay cut, and we are


asking them to pay more for their pensions and get less. We support


their action. It seems right we should be with them. I am trying to


square your position. Ed Miliband thought that the strikes were wrong.


Your position seems to be that the strikes were right? It is devolved


politics. Scottish Labour supported the strikes will stop we thought


the best way to such -- support that strike was to be with the


workers. -- the strikes. Ice and then the morning with thousands of


my constituents. -- I spent the morning. I thought that was the


right thing to do. You are against the strikes? We don't think the


strikes are appropriate. It should be directed against Westminster.


Gavin, what do you make about politicians joining picket lines?


Otter Medley, it is a matter for individual MSPs to decide. I am


against MSPs taking the day off to do that. My view is that we should


all have been in Parliament. The best thing you can do is to be in


there, putting forward your views feels constituents. MSP's -- MSPs


should have been there. What do you make of the Scottish government's


position? These pension changes are being implemented by the Scottish


government. It is a confused position, isn't it? The SNP say


they are opposed to these changes, but they are implementing them.


Their position on the strike is very Clare. Someone said he does


not support the strike. -- very clear. They seem to be in a very


odd position of not supporting the strike, they are going into


Parliament and trying to make it sound as if they do. Kennea, you


say you support the strikers, but it is your government that is


implementing this in Scotland. -- Kenny. Some of the demonstrators


note the position. The UK government said it will claw back a


�0.4 million a month for every month. -- �8.4 million. We think


that would be irresponsible. At a time of financial cuts, we can't


see how we can go ahead with allowing that clawback to happen.


We are extremely... We don't have any choice. That is precisely the


point the British government makes, they say they don't have a choice.


That is nonsense. It is a cash grab. There is a surplus in the public


sector pension fund. This money is going to the Treasury, and it is


completely wrong to impose these changes. Where can you find this


money from the Scottish budget? Iain, isn't he ride? If you were


running Holyrood, you would be doing the same thing. No one is


pretending it isn't easy choice. This is and different from the


decision the -- of the coalition government to increase tuition fees.


That meant there was a reduction in the consequences of that came to


Scotland. They chose to find the money otherwise be in order not to


introduce, and employment, the same policy. In this case, they made


their choice again, and the choice was to implement pension changes.


It is not true to say they didn't have a choice. A difficult one


perhaps, but rejoice none the less. Gavin, why do you think they are


wrong? -- 8 choice nonetheless. is a very difficult decision. At


the very heart of it, we are all living longer. That is a good news


story, but if we are living longer, we are retiring for longer, and


pensions cost more money. You either have to work for longer, but


more in, or accept you get less out. I am curious to ask you a question


that Francis Maude seemed reluctant answer, are you in favour of...


Given the rhetoric of a deep Tories, you are freezing tax credits, a UN


favour of putting benefits up by 5%? -- the Tories. This wasn't


about an increase in pensions. Not just about that any way. I was


trying to talk about the anger people feel, particularly when they


see people not in work, being rewarded with an increase and the


benefits, yet people in work are being told they cannot have their


pensions. But this issue is not about a one or two-year deal. It is


try to put sustainable pensions on a long-term footing. It is not just


about short-term issues. We are trying to make its sustainable in


the long-term. They had been measures put in place to ensure


that people get a better pension. But someone have to put in more.


you welcomed the rise in benefits? The announcements made by the


Chancellor tried to reflect fairness. Kennea, you reply to the


point that politics is about choices. -- Kenny. You made the


choice not to implement tuition fees. You could have made the same


choice about public sector pensions, but you didn't want to. We are


facing a cut in a budget as it is. As far as Gavin is concerned, he


has been disingenuous. He talks about more sustainable pensions,


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