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Labour vows to pay TV licence fee for over-75s

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has promised to scrap the TV licence fee for over-75s - Credit: PA

Scottish Labour has announced plans to pay television licence fees or help cover broadband bills for the over-75s.

Party leader Anas Sarwar said the “staying connected” policy would provide every household with people aged over 75 with the £159 cost of a TV licence.

Free TV licences for all seniors ended in 2020 after the UK government announced the BBC should bear the cost of the policy – introduced by Labour’s Gordon Brown in 1999.

Since then, only low-income households that claim pension credit benefit have been eligible for a free licence.

Announcing his plans, Sarwar said Holyrood has the powers to tackle the “national scandal” of pensioner poverty and ease the cost of the Tories’ “broken promise” not to scrap the benefit.

The fund, which Scottish Labour says would cost no more than £73.1 million per year, would entirely cover the cost of the licence fee but could also be used to pay for broadband bills.

Sarwar said: “Labour would 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 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 these Scots, but we can use Holyrood’s powers to protect a benefit 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 video calls like Zoom. As we emerge from the worst of the public health crisis, it is essential that older people are not left behind in our recovery.

“It’s right that the Scottish parliament delivers support to ease the cost of that.

“I am proud to present a positive vision for the vital years ahead in our manifesto, which focuses on delivering a national recovery to build a stronger and fairer Scotland.”

The latest Department for Work and Pension figures from August show there were 459,461 Scots over 75 who claimed the state pension and so would have previously received a free TV licence.

Under Scottish Labour’s proposal, every household with a person over 75 on the state pension would be eligible for the “staying connected” fund.

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