Ministers have been accused of “outsourcing austerity” after the BBC revealed it was scrapping blanket free TV licences for the over-75s.
There are around 356,000 over-75 TV licences in force in Scotland and just under 88,000 people aged over 75 on pension credit in Scotland – leaving 268,000 older people in Scotland poorer and worse off as a result of the cut.
The decision comes four years after the government announced the BBC would take over the responsibility for providing free licences by 2020 as part of the licence fee settlement.
MPs from all political parties yesterday criticised the government in the Commons over their handling of the policy.
Conservative MP Ed Vaizey, who was a culture minister from 2010 to 2016, said ministers should “either take back this policy or support the BBC changes”.
He said: “I was in the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) when this policy was imposed on the BBC by the Treasury to meet its £12 billion welfare target, a target which I doubt we have met and has long been forgotten.”
He added: “It (the government) shouldn’t use weasel words that undermine the changes the BBC has brought about.”
The SNP’s culture spokeswoman Hannah Bardell said the government was “shirking responsibility”.
She said: “It is time this Tory government finally made the welfare of our older population a priority, instead of making things even worse by taking away key benefits, presiding over the lowest state pension of any developed country and denying women born in the 1950s pension justice.”
Responding, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said the BBC “must be respected” in its decision making.
He added: “I think we all have a right to express our view on this decision.
“It is a BBC decision. I have accepted that very clearly. That’s what the statute says.
“But we all have a right to express our view and I have been frank with the House in saying I am disappointed that the BBC has not been able to do better.
“I think they still can do better and I intend to use the forthcoming period to persuade them to do so.”