Cost of living crisis: As energy costs spiral, Scotland's two governments have gone awol – Ian Murray MP
As we enter September, and the days get shorter and temperatures start to dip, the looming hike in energy bills is causing greater anxiety for households.
The astronomical increases start to feel very real as people look at their boilers and know the time is soon coming to turn then back on.
For months, the scale of the cost-of-living crisis has been clear. There have been warnings that over 70 per cent of households in Scotland could be in fuel poverty come January.
If there’s one thing the Covid pandemic should have taught us, it’s to be prepared.
But the Tory government has done absolutely nothing since Boris Johnson was forced to resign, wasting this vital period over summer. Liz Truss clearly doesn’t have a plan other than to focus on vague tax cuts.
Meanwhile in Scotland, the First Minister has traipsed from Fringe show to Fringe show rather than use her powers to help families. Of course, it suits the SNP to do nothing and point the finger of blame at the Tories.
But having two absent governments is catastrophic for people in Scotland.
Labour’s fully-funded £29bn plan would prevent the energy price cap rising through the winter, paid for by an extra tax from oil and gas giants which are making eye-watering profits.
Our plan includes all off-grid homes in Scotland, where families have faced serious challenges this year. And we would cancel the unfair premium penalty for customers using prepayment meters to pay for their energy.
Prepayment customers, often those on the lowest incomes, would get an additional £300 compared to Direct Debit customers as part of Labour’s plan.
We can collectively save families in Edinburgh millions of pounds by making sure they don’t pay a penny more on energy this winter. In Edinburgh South alone, the package would save people a combined £39m.
It would also save families £47m in Edinburgh East, £58m in North and Leith, £49m in South West and £42m in Edinburgh West.
Labour’s plan to stop energy bills rising is a fully-funded measure. We would close the government’s absurd loophole in its energy profits levy, backdate the start date to when Labour first called for a windfall tax, January, and, accounting for higher gas and oil prices, would raise £8bn.
We’d use the already-pledged £14bn of non-targeted funding to prevent bills from rising, giving people the security to plan ahead, rather than giving that money back in hand-outs later on.
As well as addressing the cost-of-living crisis, it’s vital to tackle the cost-of-business crisis too.
Last week, the Evening News revealed that Asif Mohammad, who owns Fazal and Sons convenience store in Moredun, was told by Scottish Power that the cost of his electricity would be almost £70,000 under a one-year contract. That’s five-and-a-half times his current annual charge of £12,500.
Mr Mohammad is deeply worried about the future of his business, and I met with him last Friday to discuss what action government should take.
The SNP has the power to introduce a £75m Business Hardship Fund which could offer grants over autumn and winter to businesses struggling to cope with rising prices.
The energy bills crisis is right here, right now. We can’t wait a day longer for action.
Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South