Scotland is in the middle of a crisis, a fuel poverty crisis.
Macmillan Cancer Care reported it had doubled the help it gave to patients struggling to pay their heating bills last year. Then we learned from Save the Children that 179,000 youngsters are living in chronically cold conditions.
The wet, windy weather surely brings it home to all of us how that feels. This country is in the midst of a full-blown fuel poverty crisis.
Government figures show there are already one million households in Scotland having severe difficulty paying their heating bills. The 19 per cent rise in gas and electricity prices in August meant the cost has doubled in five years. Average incomes have risen barely 20 per cent. And it seems every new economic forecast for the year ahead is more dire than the previous one.
We have an acute fuel poverty crisis developing and what is the response of our elected representatives? They couldn’t care less.
George Osborne cut the winter fuel allowance to pensioners by 40 per cent and all but destroyed those programmes designed to reduce bills and improve household energy efficiency.
The SNP government made similar cuts and has now abandoned the promise it made in 2007 to abolish fuel poverty within eight years.
To argue we need to cut such programmes to pay off the national debt and “ensure future prosperity” as Osborne and Danny Alexander suggest fails to appreciate that help is required by millions now. For the 27,000 people who Professor John Hills (the government adviser commissioned to examine the extent of fuel poverty) says will die this winter there will be no future.
The Scottish Socialist Party has received overwhelming support from people across the Lothians for a petition demanding government action to reduce gas and electricity bills, to double the winter fuel allowance (and extend it to other vulnerable groups) and to invest the £5 billion Professor Hills says is necessary to bring UK household energy efficiency up to Scandanavian standards. These measures could be paid for by taxing the profits of the six energy companies which according to OFGEM rose by 733 per cent this year.
Colin Fox, Scottish Socialist Party, Alloway Loan, Edinburgh
Italy’s not a free country anymore
Alex Orr states that Italy is an independent country in the EU. Would this be the same Italy that now has an unelected Head of Government imposed on it by the EU?
Ian Lewis, Mayfield Terrace, Edinburgh
No dancing to theatre’s tune
I can’t wait until unfair credit card charges are outlawed.
The Playhouse Theatre wanted to charge us an extra ten per cent for not paying by cash. Even a debit card would also attract this silly charge. It costs retailers more to bank cash than debit cards. One just wonders why there is a drive for cash?
We couldn’t be bothered bearing any more wind and rain to get to the autobank just to avoid being robbed. We’ve booked a meal instead.
Sorry Lord of the Dance, two less visitors.
Colin Mackenzie, Edinburgh
Let Scotland raise its own revenue
It is surely in Scotland’s best interests to gain more financial independence as proposed by the SNP.
It is only right and proper that the Scottish Government is empowered to raise revenue and direct it to the areas of greatest need in our country.
The Cameron-led coalition talks of creating a “fair society”, but this will only ever be achieved when whole swatches of Scotland’s folk are not continually marginalised just because they are less well off than others.
I say go for it!
Trevor Swistchew, Victor Park Terrace, Edinburgh
Only poor should get allowance
I disagree that people in full-time employment aged 60 and over receive the fuel allowance.
I thought when it started it was to help pensioners with winter costs. And the government wonder where they go wrong.
M Mabon, Dalkeith