Martin Whitfield has welcomed the announcement that Scottish Labour’s manifesto will commit to help every person aged 75 and over in Scotland pay their TV licence, supporting nearly 8,000 people in the East Lothian constituency.
The flagship policy, announced by Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar, 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.
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.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar 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 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 Scots, but we can use Holyrood’s powers to protect a benefit 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 video 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 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.”
Martin Whitfield, Scottish Labour candidate for East Lothian, said:
“I’m proud to be standing on a platform to support older people in East Lothian. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of TV and broadband to bring people together, even while we’ve been separated in our homes.
“Rather than going back to the old arguments, Scottish Labour under Anas Sarwar has a vision for a stronger, fairer nation, starting with support for older people and reversing the trend of pensioner poverty.”