Scotland’s pensioners love watching rugby of television.
By Bill Heaney
Scottish Labour’s manifesto will commit to help every person aged 75 and over in Scotland pay their TV licence, supporting over 6,300 people in the constituency of Dumbarton.
The flagship policy, announced by Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar, right, on Wednesday, will effectively save the free licence benefit after the Tories broke their promise to the country’s elderly population.
Elderly people could also use the ‘digital connection credit’ to help pay their broadband bills or to purchase a digital device.
The party will commit to establishing a ‘Staying Connected’ fund offering grants to every household with someone aged 75 and over, up to the current £159 value of the TV licence, to go towards either paying their licence fee or other digital connectivity bills.
Free TV licences for older people were introduced under the last Labour government by Chancellor Gordon Brown in 1999.
However, new rules linking the free licence to pension credit recipients only could land around 300,000 over 75s in Scotland with a new bill to pay.
Scottish Labour’s digital connection credit would be available to all households in Scotland with someone who is aged 75 and over and claiming the State Pension, benefiting up to 460,000 older people.
Figures released earlier this month revealed Scotland has the highest rate of persistent pensioner poverty in the UK, with the number of older people struggling to make ends meet equivalent to the population of Dundee.
Jackie Baillie, left, said: “Labour has unveiled a flagship policy to help every person aged 75 and over in Scotland with the cost of their TV licence or help with their broadband bills.
“Pensioner poverty in our community and across Scotland is a national scandal, and it’s not fair that hundreds of thousands of older people are facing a new bill for TV licences.
“The Tories have broken their promise to elderly local people, but we can use Holyrood’s powers to create a benefit to protect a policy which Labour is proud to have introduced.
“For many older people, TV is a lifeline against loneliness and isolation. While the pandemic separated us all in our homes, the way many of us came together was over online calls like Zoom. That makes digital access so vital for our older people too. It’s right that the Scottish Parliament delivers support to ease the cost of that.
“I am proud to support the positive vision in our manifesto, which focuses on delivering a national recovery to build a stronger and fairer Scotland.”
Top picture: Rangers v Aberdeen on television is a big hit with over 75s. Pictures by Bill Heaney