There was speculation this week that the state pension age could increase to 71 in the near future.

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That brought an angry response from one of our readers, who argues that the UK state is failing to ensure the health and wellbeing of its people.

Leah Gunn Barrett of Edinburgh writes:

"A clear sign that a state is failing is when it raises the pension age, especially when life expectancy is falling. It means the state is not meeting its primary responsibility to protect its people and ensure their health and wellbeing. By this measure alone, the UK is failing.

From May 2026, the UK retirement age will increase from 66 to 67 and then to 68 from 2044. There’s talk it may need to rise to 71. Just half of adults in England and Wales are healthy and able to work at the age of 70. Most suffer from preventable illnesses because they are not receiving the health care they need in order to lead productive lives. Per capita health spending has fallen in real terms and over the last decade the UK spent a fifth less than its European neighbours.

A decade of Tory austerity stalled live expectancy and then in 2020/21 it fell due to Covid.

In addition, there’s an unexplained increase in excess deaths amongst working aged people. In Scotland in 2021, excess deaths were 12% above average. UK-wide in 2023, they were 13% higher among the 50-64 age group. Worryingly, the UK actuarial body reported that 2022 excess deaths were three times higher for those aged 20-44 than those aged 75-84. As more people die early, life expectancy will fall further.

The Government should urgently investigate the reasons for these excess deaths. It should also dramatically increase health spending to compensate for years of underfunding if the UK workforce is to be fit and productive. Health spending is a good investment. Each pound spent on healthcare generates £4 of economic activity.

Unfortunately, Keir Starmer’s English Labour is hell-bent on following its fictional fiscal rules, so no more spending. As a result, the UK’s health and economy will continue to decline. That’s a pretty good reason for Scotland to end the Union."

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