Axeing free TV licences to cost Scots £41m

More than a quarter of a million Scots pensioners will be hit when the the BBC axes the free TV licence for over 75s - at an overall cost of £41.4 million, it has emerged.

The SNP stepped up the pressure on the UK Government to take action to ensure that the licence is funded for over 75s. The BBC has insisted that the move is necessary to meet budget shortfalls, but has faced criticism as it continues to pay seven-figure salaries to many of its stars.

Nationalist MP Brendan O’Hara, who sits on Westminster's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, revealed yesterday there are 356,000 Scots "over-75" TV licences in force in Scotland, and just under 88,000 people aged over 75 on pension credit.

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It means some 268,000 households could lose out on £154.50 a year if the UK government fails to take responsibility.

The licence fee axe has prompted protests

The free licence fee cut was a BBC decision, it breaches a Tory manifesto commitment not to cut it. the Nationalists say the UK government must "send a cheque" to Scottish pensioners to make up the difference.

“The Tories can try to pass the buck but the blame for this multi-million pound black hole to Scotland’s over-75s lies squarely at the door of the UK government - who passed off this decision to the BBC rather than taking action," Mr O'Hara said.

“The UK government must now reconsider their ridiculous decision and commit to funding the licence fee for the over-75s, a group who depend on the television more than most in our communities.

“At a time when the Tories are offering the worst state pension in the developed world, the SNP will not let the Tories off the hook on this broken Tory manifesto commitment.

“After years of Tory austerity, and the deep financial uncertainty of Brexit, the last thing our older people need is this extra burden on top of their household bills.”

The charity Age Scotland recently recently wrote to Scotland's 13 Scottish Tory MPs urging them to honour their manifesto commitment to maintain pensioner benefits, including TV licences.

A UK Government spokesman said the BBC must reverse the decision to axe the licence free licence fee.

"We’re very disappointed with this decision - we’ve been clear that we want and expect the BBC to continue this concession," he added.

 "People across the country value television as a way to stay connected, and we want the BBC to look at further ways to support older people.

"Taxpayers want to see the BBC using its substantial licence fee income in an appropriate way to ensure it delivers for UK audiences, which includes showing restraint on salaries for senior staff."