NOW that the candidates are known, and campaigning has started in earnest, it is time to look at key policy issues which might be “re-set” by whoever gets elected as party leader and First Minister. A key issue which needs to get detailed attention is our ageing population.

This is not simply a matter of demographic statistics, but is politicised by often negative, ageist language about “demographic time bombs” and presentation of “the old” as a threat to welfare budgets and the future of “the young”.

The policy backdrop is that as more people live longer, the population structure changes to create a different generational profile for work, pensions, housing, healthcare, and social attitudes to age. Whether Scotland achieves independence or not, this is a reality that must be faced at Holyrood. Therefore, Scotland needs a comprehensive strategy for ageing to ensure we do not perpetuate the inequalities and ageism of current practice.

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How the candidates for the SNP leadership locate themselves in this territory is a major issue not just for SNP members but for all of us, so I hope hustings and other events pay as much attention to ageing as we can anticipate for equalities generally, the economy, the NHS, education, and strategies for achieving independence.

The main questions to get candidates to answer are:

•How would you bring an end to ageism? This includes institutional ageism as well as personal behaviour and media representations.

•How will you improve respect for the human rights and legal protections of older people?

•Do you have a comprehensive strategy for healthy ageing with social care systems adapted to demographic ageing?

•What is your policy for reforming the labour market and employment rights to offer choices for better, longer, and fairer working lives?

•What are your plans for delivering age-proofed housing development?

•Do you support the right to retirement with an acceptable income, including the option of a Universal Basic Income?

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These questions are relevant to us all and particularly the present cohorts of “younger” older people now in their 40s and 50s as they look ahead to their 60s, 70s and beyond. This group amounts to a substantial proportion of the Scottish electorate whose votes can be decisive in securing SNP election results and advancing the cause of independence.

So, the next SNP leader and First Minister needs to be up to speed on the issues raised here as they relate to both devolved government and the case for independence.

Nicola Sturgeon introduced a Minister for Older people and Equalities in 2018, Christina McKelvie MSP, and age is a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act. These are powerful levers for the next leader to use.

Good luck to SNP members in choosing a new leader and First Minister. We’ll all be looking closely at the results and what they might mean for the next few years of government and independence campaigning.

Bill Johnston

I AM not a current member of the SNP so will have no say in the forthcoming choice of new First Minister. However, I campaigned for a Scottish Assembly and believe in an independent Scotland governed under a parliamentary democracy. This I think I share with most of the readers of The National.

I therefore cannot understand how two of the current candidates for the post appear not to wish to challenge the shocking interference of the UK Government in a democratic decision passed by a large cross-party majority in Holyrood. I refer to the Gender Recognition Reform legislation of which I am far from uncritical.

If you believe in democracy, you have to accept (as Duncan Gill wrote in his letter of February 27) the responsibility and limitations it demands, in that you won’t necessarily always get your own way. This includes not falling back on “Big Daddy” to sort it out to your satisfaction, which is a truly shameful and contradictory position to take for those who say they wish for an independent country.

S Howie
via email

IT is interesting that the unelected Lord Foulkes is interfering in Scottish politics by calling on the Secretary of State to sabotage Scotland’s deposit return scheme due to be introduced in August this year. His Lordship thinks the DRS is “a very good idea” but for it to work, it should be done on a UK basis. According to The Guardian the rest of the UK has been waiting for the UK Government to implement the DRS in England for more than five years without effect.

Here in Norway, if we buy cans in Sweden we take them back to Sweden to get our money back. Swedes do the same with Norwegian cans. But Norway now has a system whereby we accept Swedish cans, but don’t pay a deposit.

Where’s the problem?

Mike Fergus
Oslo, Norway