Tories told: keep TV licence promise

Crop tv licence

“Scottish voters are telling the Conservatives loud and clear that they should not renege on their promise to older people"

Graham Martin's photo

5th July 2019 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Scottish voters across the generations overwhelmingly believe that the Conservatives should not break their promise to provide a free TV licence for everyone aged over 75. 

Age Scotland’s research found that 86% of respondents agreed that they should not renege on the commitment made in their 2017 manifesto. 

The poll comes as leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt face Tory members in the only Scottish hustings event in Perth today (Friday). 

The overall figure was slightly higher than the UK average of 83%.

Not surprisingly, support was highest among older voters, with 98% of those aged 75 and up agreeing UK-wide. But eight in 10 millennials (79%) also agreed that they should keep the free licence. 

Almost as many Scottish respondents (77%) agreed that the government should continue to pay for the licence for all over-75s, with high support in all age groups. 

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “Scottish voters are telling the Conservatives loud and clear that they should not renege on their promise to older people. 

“We’ve heard a huge outpouring of concern from across Scotland, and people of all generations believe this is deeply unfair. Our research found strong and consistent support for our campaign across all age groups, income levels and political persuasions. Clearly people believe a promise is a promise, and the next Prime Minister needs to sit up and take note. 

“There’s no doubt that this ill-judged decision will hit the poorest pensioners hardest. For half of over-75s, their television or a pet is their main form of company. Now tens of thousands on low incomes will either have to give it up, refuse to pay, or face another bill they can’t afford.

"The decision to means-test it simply doesn’t work. Four in 10 of the poorest Scottish pensioners don’t claim the Pension Credit they are entitled to, while thousands more who are just on the brink will miss out. 

“We’re calling on the next Conservative leader to do the decent thing and restore this entitlement for every older person.” 

Age Scotland has been inundated with support for its Switched Off campaign since the BBC made its announcement to means-test TV licences for the over-75s a few weeks ago.

An online petition by its sister charity Age UK has now topped the 600,000 mark and the charity has been flooded with calls and emails from people across the country who are worried about losing their free TV licence, or concerned for family and friends. 

The charity is warning that the most vulnerable older people will bear the brunt of the decision to scrap free TV licences, including those with limited mobility, long-term health conditions, and at risk of loneliness and isolation. 

An estimated 328,000 Scottish pensioners will now have to pay £154.50 a year, or face a £1000 fine. Around 76,000 people aged 75 and over in Scotland do not receive Pension Credit even though they are eligible, while thousands more who just miss out on the benefit will struggle to pay.

The Scottish Conservative Party has been asked for comment.