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Banffshire MSP backs calls to save free TV licences for over 75s

By Kyle Ritchie

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Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has added his voice to Age Scotland’s growing campaign urging the BBC to overturn the decision to scrap free TV licences for over 75s.

Mr Stevenson said the announcement that over 75s who are not eligible for pension credit will no longer receive a free TV licence is unfair and a devastating blow to older people, many of whom depend on their TV for companionship and information.

He is calling on the BBC and the UK Government to get together as a matter of urgency to find a solution to a problem that will affect more than 300,000 older people in Scotland.

Age Scotland and Age UK have been campaigning to save free tv licences for older people.
Age Scotland and Age UK have been campaigning to save free tv licences for older people.

Age Scotland research has found that for those who are chronically lonely, TV is a lifeline.

Half of over 75s said that their TV or their pet was their main form of company and, before the coronavirus pandemic, nine out of 10 older people said they watched TV every day.

From August 1, only those in receipt of pension credit, a benefit to support those on the lowest incomes, will be able to claim a free TV licence.

However, around 100,000 people in Scotland who are entitled to the benefit are not claiming it.

Mr Stevenson said: “I very much support Age Scotland’s campaign and wholeheartedly back their call for the BBC and the UK Government to address this problem of their own making.

“Giving pensioners free TV licences should not be the job of the BBC. It’s a social provision.

“The Tories promised in their manifesto that they’d maintain free TV licences for older people – including the 300,000 in Scotland this will affect. They must follow through on that promise.”

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “We are delighted that so many people are supporting our campaign to have this harsh decision overturned.

“The past few months have been very hard for older people, as many struggled with isolation and loneliness during the prolonged lockdown.

“For those older people the TV was a real lifeline, providing company when they were unable to see loved ones, as well as being a vital source of information about government guidelines around coronavirus.

“To choose to start charging over 75s for to watch TV at this time seems particularly cruel.

“We have called on the BBC to sit down with the UK government to sort this issue out once and for all. There must be a better solution than imposing a new bill on older people.

“We are hearing from so many older people who are appalled and upset about the prospect of having to pay to watch TV.

"But it’s not too late to do something about it. Join us in making our voices heard and having the threat of this charge removed once and for all.”

Older people can find out if they are eligible for pension credit by calling the Age Scotland helpline on 0800 12 44 222, which could allow them to claim a free TV licence after the BBC introduces a fee from August 1.

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