Scots more likely to pay for licence fee than rUK

BBC Scotland's headquarters at Pacific Quay in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
BBC Scotland's headquarters at Pacific Quay in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
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Scots are far more likely than the English or Welsh to pay their licence fee, it has been revealed.

The number of people prosecuted for failure to pay their TV licence in Scotland has seen a 53 per cent decrease in the past year, while in England and Wales the numbers remain far higher.

It had been claimed there were more TV licence evaders in Scotland, where satisfaction with the BBC is much lower than in England, but this is not the case.

Differing justice policies south of the Border have also seen dozens of people locked up in England and Wales while in Scotland no-one has been jailed in the past six years.

In Scotland, there is little risk of licence evaders facing prison sentences due to reforms by the former Scottish Executive and the current Scottish Government.

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Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Scotland has by far the fewest court and out-of-court disposals for failure to pay.

In England, 3.3 per 1,000 are prosecuted compared to five in Wales, 3.2 in Northern Ireland and just 0.9 in Scotland.

In England, there were 173,966 prosecutions, 4,863 in Scotland, 15,383 in Wales and 5,905 in Northern Ireland.

In 2014, just 32 people were brought to court in Scotland compared to 15 in 2015.

Of these, one in five was found not guilty, an increase from 12.5 per cent in 2014.

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The numbers also demonstrate that women are far more likely to be penalised than men.

In England, 70.8 per cent of those convicted are women, with 68.6 per cent in Scotland, 70.9 per cent in Wales and 71 per cent in Northern Ireland.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Non-payment of the licence fee is a criminal offence throughout the UK.

“The television licence fee and whether or not evasion of it is a criminal offence is a matter reserved to the UK Government.

“Prosecutions are devolved, and in Scotland we make far greater use of alternatives to prosecution, such as fiscal fines, than in the rest of the UK.”

The BBC annual report and accounts 2015-16 shows regional licence fee figures as well as expenditure.

Wales gets around 95 per cent of its licence fee back, Northern Ireland gets 72 per cent, but Scotland just 55 per cent.

The Government spokesperson added: “The Scottish Government believes that BBC Scotland must have control over a far more representative share of the £320 million collected in TV licensing revenues in Scotland.

“We are continuing to press for this through the current BBC Charter renewal process in order to ensure that Scotland gets a BBC that better represents and reflects the people of Scotland, and supports our world-class creative industries.”

The figures were obtained by Caroline Levesque-Bartlett whose petition calling for the scrapping of the licence fee has secured more than 200,700 signatures.

She said: “As far as I’m concerned, television should be free. If certain channels disagree they should not be allowed to withhold access to all other free channels.”

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