PENSIONERS over 75 being denied free television licences has been criticised as 'a far from transparent' decision by Cowdenbeath MSP Annabelle Ewing.

Ms Ewing spoke in the Scottish Parliament this week in support of a Scottish Government motion criticising plans by the UK Government to scrap free TV Licences for the over-75s, describing the arrangement which led up to this discussion as “far from transparent”.

During her speech, Ms Ewing also addressed other aspects of the UK Government “cynical approach” to the incomes and rights of pensioners, saying: “Back in 2015, in what can only be termed a shady deal with the BBC, the UK Tory Government proposed that the BBC should take over the funding of TV licences for the over-75s from June 2020 in exchange, it would appear, for a promise of increases in the TV licence fee.

"Those discussions were far from transparent and, indeed, were described as being conducted in ‘hasty and secretive manner’."

She added: “The next, all-too-predictable development was the BBC announcement in June this year to the effect that free TV licences for the over-75s would be restricted to those households in receipt of pension credit, thereby removing some 3.75 million households from entitlement to a free TV licence.

“At the same time, the UK Tory Government sneaked out the bombshell announcement that pension credit could no longer be claimed by households in which a couple included an individual of working age. Rather, mixed-age couples would be forced to go down the route of claiming universal credit—a move that was likely to cost households up to £7,000 per annum.

“The cynical approach to state pension provision on the part of the UK Government is evident in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and European Union league tables of pension provision, where we see that the UK is consistently among the lowest.

“That is simply not good enough because, as we have heard, loneliness and isolation are significant problems for far too many pensioners, and the TV is their companion. We know that many pensioners across Scotland and the UK are very much up against it financially, with the paltry state pension on offer exacerbated by Tory-Liberal and Tory austerity years.

“We know, too, that the entitlement to pension credit has been slashed and take-up on the part of those who will remain entitled is still far too low. In that context, restriction of the free TV licence for over-75s to those people in receipt of pension credit is a very cynical ploy indeed".

The MSP concluded: “Let us be clear that it is not, at heart, the fault of the BBC. The UK Government’s attempts to deflect blame, which we have also heard from the Tory front bench today, will simply not work.

“Pensioners in my Cowdenbeath constituency, across Scotland, and indeed across the United Kingdom, deserve so much better.

“The UK Tory Government has failed pensioners. Tory politicians, both MPs and MSPs, have failed pensioners. I am sure that pensioners will reflect on those matters in the weeks immediately ahead.”