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Older voters will decide the outcome of the UK General Election
Date of article: 05-May-10
Article By: Age Scotland
Electoral power lies firmly in the hands of the over 60s, according to exclusive new research which reveals older voters will be more influential in the 2010 General Election than ever before. Across the UK, people aged 55 and over will cast four out of every 10 votes and make up the majority in many marginal seats.(1)
According to research undertaken by De Montford University, during the 2005 General Election there were only two Scottish seats in which, in terms of turnout, over-55s were in the majority(2). In 2010 this has grown to 11(3) and by 2025, based on demographic projections, it is estimated that 44 out of the 59 seats will have a majority of older voters.
It is significant that the forthcoming General Election coincides with the launch of Age Scotland, the new force combining Age Concern Scotland and Help the Aged in Scotland following their merger last year. Building on this strong heritage, the Charity is urging older people to use their votes, get their voices heard and demand a fairer deal in return for their votes. On behalf of Scotland's older people, Age Scotland is demanding (4) that all candidates in the forthcoming election commit themselves to:
Paying all older people's benefit entitlements automatically Honouring the commitment to link the Basic State Pension with average earnings Scrapping the Default Retirement Age Retaining the essential features of Attendance Allowance Providing greater support for unemployed people aged 50+ to return to work The De Montford research further reveals the over-65s will account for over a quarter of the votes in 41 out of the 59 Scottish constituencies. Politicians cannot afford to ignore these numbers and the prize for successful engagement on issues important to older Scots is huge.
The research also shows that ‘grey' majorities are held in 4 pivotal marginal seats where securing votes among the over 55s could tip the balance of power between the main parties.
Of these 4 seats, 1 (Angus) is held by the Scottish National Party, 1 (Dumfries & Galloway) by Labour, 1 (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale) by the Conservative Party, and 1 (East Dunbartonshire) by the LibDems. With the loss of just 32 seats across the UK being enough to overturn the current Government's majority of 63, the ‘grey' marginals are a significant battleground.
David Manion, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, says: "What this research shows is that votes cannot be taken for granted and that many older people are having second thoughts about being lifelong supporters of one political party.
"It also illustrates that when we talk about older people voting, we're talking about individuals, not a voting bloc - just as with other age groups, those over 60 care about a variety of issues and decisions are based on families, hopes and worries for the future.
"So we are busy harnessing the voices of older voters across Scotland and encouraging individuals to ask the right questions so that candidates provide answers on the issues that matter most to people and earn their votes."
As well as influencing at local, regional and national levels, Age Scotland will deliver information and advice and support the provision of practical services to help people stay independent at home and doing the things they love most. It will work in Scotland and globally, campaigning alongside older people for changes in legislation, policy and practice that will bring a better later life. It will challenge attitudes and address market failures with age-friendly products.
David Manion concludes: "An ageing society presents tremendous opportunities that should rightly be celebrated, yet at the same time we have a big challenge ahead to improve the ageing experience for people now and for generations to come - alongside climate change, population ageing is the greatest global transition we will face this century.
"Many older people and their families have experienced appalling treatment in care and health settings that are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with demand and every day, people face age discrimination in employment, medical treatment and financial services, leaving them feeling worthless and shut out of society.
"Furthermore, the needs of older people continue to be ignored when it comes to building communities and providing services, despite the huge demographic shift we are seeing, so the success of any party in this election will clearly depend on their commitment to address the problems identified by older people, who are more likely to vote than any other age group.
"Older people are fed up with promises and platitudes - now more than ever before they want action from their local candidates on the issues that matter to them".