MSPs clash over free TV licence issue

Michelle Ballantyne and Christine Grahame.
Michelle Ballantyne and Christine Grahame.

The SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale has challenged her Tory counterpart to get behind calls to stop free TV licences for over-75s being scrapped.

The call by Christine Grahame to List MSP Michelle Ballantyne comes after Tory leaders refused to sign a cross-party letter criticising the plans.

Figures revealed that 4124 of people in Midlothian will be hit by the decision to force over-75s to pay an extra £154.50 in household bills.

The SNP has called for the UK government to ensure the free TV licence is fully funded. Tory leader Ruth Davidson was asked to sign a cross-party letter calling for the free TV licences to continue, but allegedly declined.

Ms Grahame said: “Scrapping the free TV licence for over-75s will leave thousands of older people in Midlothian worse off. After years of Tory austerity, the last thing our older people need is money being taken out of their pockets. The extra burden of £154.50 to their household bills could have a serious impact on hard-stretched finances.

“Ruth Davidson’s refusal to act to protect free TV licence for over-75s is damning.

“Tory MSPs, including Ms Ballantyne, must urgently get behind cross-party calls to ensure that the TV licence for over-75s is properly funded and protected.”

Michelle Ballantyne MSP responded: “What Christine Grahame forgot to mention is that those who claim pension credit are automatically exempt from paying TV licence fees, and the reality is that this benefit has been under-utilised by the vast majority of people. The Government’s research shows that over 60 per cent of those who are eligible have not claimed pension credit. So rather than wasting column inches trying to score political points, I would like to invite Ms Grahame to join me in encouraging all those who are eligible to sign up for pension credit.

“Claimants could receive up to £167 per week as well as receiving free dental treatment and being exempt from paying council tax and TV licence fees. It’s incumbent on all politicians, regardless of party, to promote this.”