Edinburgh cost of living crisis: MSP Martin Whitfield fears for students returning to university

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East Lothian-based MSP says students worried about going back to university

Labour has called for more support from the Scottish Government for students struggling to keep warm amid the crisis of soaring energy costs.

And one student whose plight was raised in the Scottish Parliament said she feared the situation could even lead to deaths. Lucy Penman, who is studying at St Andrews and lives in private rented accommodation, described being forced to go to the library the day before her exam because her flat was “dangerously cold”. She said she could not afford to keep the heating on for more than an hour and a half and her “fingers were losing feeling”. She said: “Students can't live like this for much longer and if they do, it may be fatal.”

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East Lothian-based Labour MSP Martin Whitfield said students must not be forgotten during the cost of living crisis. Ms Penman is a constituent and he raised her case at First Minister’s Questions before Christmas, but said Nicola Sturgeon had failed to commit to taking any action to address the problem.Mr Whitfield, who is the Labour spokesperson for children, young people and lifelong learning, said: ‘’The cost of living crisis for students is an emergency and requires the Scottish Government to move decisively. The failure to act now will have a lasting impact on this generation of students. Students didn’t cause the soaring rate of inflation and the Tory-made cost of living crisis but they are feeling the full brunt of it.

Energy costs mean students are forced to go to the library for warmth, says Labour.Energy costs mean students are forced to go to the library for warmth, says Labour.
Energy costs mean students are forced to go to the library for warmth, says Labour.

“For students with private landlords the cost of fuel and heating is just incredible because a lot of them have pre-payment meters so they are paying a lot more for it. Lucy raised it with me because it was the run-up to her exams and it was ridiculously cold. There are students in East Lothian who are studying in Glasgow and are extremely concerned about their return – they’re in private accommodation, we’re going into what are normally the coldest months of the year and they’re worried sick about it. I know a student who has underlying health conditions and her mum is extremely concerned about her, particularly when the weather gets cold and that if the temperature drops too low she’s going to get ill.

“The Scottish Government should use all the tools at its disposal and support students during this cost of living crisis, including lowering transportation costs and additional support for grants and bursaries.”

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When Mr Whitfield raised Ms Penman’s case with the First Minister, Ms Sturgeon said the government provided universities with funding so they could offer hardship payments to students who needed them. She added: “Universities should make their students aware of how to access that funding.”

Ms Penman said: ‘’I urge the First Minister to offer a solution to students soon as possible so that no one gets ill this winter. Friends of mine have already been ill due to the energy fuel crisis. This generation didn’t cause the cost of living crisis but it feels like we’re being punished for it. We need help now.’’