Charities have blasted the BBC’s decision to means test licences for the over-75s, calling the move “thoughtless” and warning that thousands of vulnerable people could be forced to give up their televisions.

Around 300,000 Scots will be affected by the scrapping of the concession that comes into force in June 2020. Only those over-75s who claim Pension Credit will be eligible for a free licence.

All other pensioners will have to pay the full cost, now £154.50 a year, or face a £1,000 fine.

Age Scotland said that about 76,000 pensioners aged 75 and over in Scotland do not receive Pension Credit even though they are eligible.

Older people who just miss out on the benefit will also struggle to pay the bill, and could be pushed below the poverty line. Chief executive Brian Sloan told The Herald: “This is a kick in the teeth to the thousands of older people who are already struggling to stay on top of rising living costs.

“Lonely and vulnerable people in their 80s and 90s will have tough financial choices to make and may even be forced to give up their TVs.”

READ MORE: Charging elderly for BBC licence is 'outsourcing austerity'

Anne Callaghan, Scottish campaign manager for charity Campaign to End Loneliness, warned the decision could have public health implications.

She said: “For many pensioners, the TV is their only source of company and is a lifeline that gives them a way to connect with what’s going on in the outside world. “Chronic loneliness has profound impacts on mental and physical health.

It can lead to depression and anxiety or an increase in blood pressure which can lead to cardiovascular issues.

“It’s thoughtless. For many pensioners already struggling, its a lot of money to make up.”

Professor June Andrews, dementia expert and advisor to the Dementia Services Development Trust, told The Herald the decision “feels mean”.

She said: “The majority of people with dementia are in that age group so they are going to be disproportionately affected by this. “It just feels mean. It’s a very brave government that would do this but they’ve delegated it to the BBC and that’s just cowardly.”

The move follows a consultation with 190,000 people, of whom 52 per cent were in favour of reforming or abolishing free licences.

The BBC said that funding free TV licences for all over-75s would have resulted in “unprecedented closures”.

The UK Government currently pays the £150 fee for around 4.8 million pensioners but in 2015, they announced the BBC would take over the cost of providing free licences by 2020. The new means-tested scheme is projected to cost the BBC about £250 million by 2021/22. Continuing to provide free licence fees would cost almost  one-fifth of their £5 billion budget at around £745m.

The change in the system means up to 3.7m in the UK will lose the concession from next year.

Chair of the Scottish Pensioners Forum, Maureen Gardner, slammed the BBC’s decision saying it was “potentially plunging older people into a solitary existence with no means of contact with the outside world”.

She said: “The free TV licence is an essential for many older people who suffer from loneliness and isolation on a daily basis, this decision will have a significant impact on their lives.

“The BBC’s figures just don’t add up. How can this honestly be called fair?” At the 2017 general election, the Conservatives pledged to maintain pensioner benefits, including TV licences, until 2022. The SNP challenged Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson to join its campaign “against the Tory Government’s axing” of the scheme.

SNP MP Hannah Bardell said: “It is shameful that Ruth Davidson is staying silent on another broken Tory manifesto commitment, which threatens to make so many older people in Scotland poorer.

“Instead of shirking responsibility again, the Scottish Tories must back the SNP’s campaign to properly fund and protect the free TV licence for over-75s, and put money back into older people’s pockets by reversing Tory cuts to benefits and pensions.”

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: ‘It’s time to do the right thing for the elderly’

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Many pensioners simply won’t be able to afford this, leaving them feeling even more isolated. “The Tories promised to keep free licences for the over-75s in their last manifesto. “They should honour that promise and reverse this decision.” Green MSP Ross Greer added:

“The Tories should be utterly ashamed. “They made a manifesto commitment to keep licences free for people over 75, and are now cynically attempting to shift the blame onto the BBC after almost a decade of attacking its budget.”

Former prime minister Gordon Brown said: “This is a clear breach of an election promise that was made by the Conservative Party that the licence fee would remain free to pensioners over the age of 75 for the duration of the Parliament. “This is the wrong decision, made in the wrong way. “It should not be an agency for means testing pensioners. Any costs should be covered by the Government without endangering BBC services.”