Inaction adds to Johnson’s shameful record - Lorna Slater
Energy policy needs to work for people and the planet, and right now it is failing both. But what we are seeing today is not just a failure of the energy market, it is a failure of the entire system.
Last week academics from the University of York published a terrifying report warning that over the months ahead, three quarters of Scottish households will be plunged into fuel poverty.
Behind every one of those numbers are real households and families that are struggling to make ends meet.
It feels like every time we read a newspaper or watch the news there is another dire warning about the price rises we face. It is a grave and infuriating injustice when millions of people are being forced to choose between freezing and starving, while the fossil fuel giants are raking in record profits.
Without real and fundamental change it will be a long and cold winter for millions of families. It is no exaggeration to say that people will die unless action is taken.
The support from Downing Street has been totally inadequate and, with an uninspiring navel-gazing Tory leadership campaign sucking up so much of their time and focus, that is unlikely to change.
The longer this inaction continues the worse it will be and the more people will suffer. Boris Johnson is already leaving Downing Street as the PM who lied repeatedly about his personal conduct and delivered a reckless and disastrous Brexit. Will he also leave as the PM who looked the other way and ignored a social emergency on his own doorstep?
It is a year since my Green colleagues and I joined the government in Holyrood. In that time we have worked around the clock to mitigate the worst impacts of Johnson’s cruelty, incompetence and blunders.
We have doubled the Scottish Child Payment and increased the benefits we control in line with inflation, at a time when the Tories have cut Universal Credit. We have introduced free bus travel for everyone under 22, opening Scotland for young people and their families, and ensured that all government contracts pay at least the living wage.
These are all important changes that will benefit people and communities at a time when Westminster has abandoned them. However, with the major constraints of devolution there are big limits on what we can do to address the structural problems that lie at the heart of our energy system.
So many of the fundamental decisions about our energy and our economy sit with Boris Johnson and his government.
From raising wages to raising benefits, and from taxing the obscene wealth of the oil and gas companies to reducing the cap and curbing the out-of-control price hikes, these are the changes that can only be done by the Prime Minister.
There is nothing inevitable about poverty or inequality. They are a political choice. The UK is one of the richest societies in the world, and yet, according to research by the Marie Curie foundation, 90,000 people die in poverty every year.
It doesn’t need to be this way. Even at this very late stage, Boris Johnson has the chance to finally do the right thing and leave on a less disgraceful note. He can use his powers to keep bills down and save millions from destitution and misery.
Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity