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Election letters 2019 / Fuel poverty the real by-election topic

With councillors, failed candidates and ex-councillors’ offspring stampeding to stand, Shetland’s MSP by-election has the look of a cheese rolling race down Charlotte Street, from the Town Hall to ‘Save the Children’.

Slips, trips and somersaults will follow as past policy failures, flip-flops and humbug overtake contestants. Those lacking credible policies and experience will stumble early, possibly, never to recover their footing, or their deposits.

Not one but two large ‘elephants’ block the pre-finish tumble zone; namely, Brexit and fuel poverty, for which candidates have, at the time of writing, shown scant concern.

Inevitably, parties reneging on EU Referendum democracy (LibDem, SNP, Labour, Greens) will seek to underplay Brexit in a major fishing community, while fuel poverty lacks the melodrama, the sheer media glitz of “climate emergency”.

First to fall is Tom Wills. SNP EU policy is unsustainable.

If Britain stays in the EU, Scotland will automatically leave on Independence Day, creating an immediate “hard border” with the UK (63 percent of all trade). EU tariffs will apply and trade negotiations will be with Brussels, not Westminster.

Our 5.9 percent budget deficit (per Scottish Growth Commission) exceeds EU limits (3 percent GDP), implying spending cuts/tax hikes of around £5 billion per year from a total budget of £70-75 billion.

We shall face years of austerity, at the end of which we shall adopt the euro and hand over control of our economy and trade, fishing and agriculture to Brussels. ‘Hasta la vista’, independence!

Scots will never vote for that.

The obvious antidote is to join EFTA, instead of the EU. But that isn’t the policy being peddled to voters. Nicola Sturgeon recently confirmed SNP intentions to rejoin the EU. That will change.

Shetland Inequalities Commission reported (March 2016) that 53 per cent of Shetland homes are in fuel poverty, surpassed only by the Western Isles and Orkney, causing the Shetland Partnership to set an objective of halving it by 2028.

Three years on the SIC child poverty action report confirmed little or no relief has been delivered to families affected, as yet more price hikes arrived.

Increasing fuel poverty stems from high energy prices due to green taxes and renewable energy subsidies arising from the Climate Change Acts of 2008/09. Demands from ‘far-Green’ campaigners to halt all CO2 emissions by 2025 are not recognised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and would make matters infinitely worse.

Our children and grandchildren are highly unlikely to “die from climate change”. They are far more likely to die from the effects of cold.

In England and Wales alone the NHS recorded over 50,000 ‘excess winter deaths’ in 2017/18. These occur when existing medical conditions, aggravated by cold, cause death.

Over half the Shetland electorate live in fuel poverty and are thus at risk of unnecessary, early death. Yet not one of the candidates has mentioned it – an extraordinary omission.

All the parties support, if not the “Full-Greta climate emergency”, at least, Theresa May’s “2050 net zero” law. It is unilateral – nobody else is doing it – and it will cost over £1 trillion, enough to fund the salaries of 314,000 nurses for 100 years.

Nicola Sturgeon, not to be outdone, has declared a Scottish “climate emergency”.

However, IPCC experts state climate change should be addressed collectively, not unilaterally (“Climate Change 2014, Synthesis Report”, page 76):

Effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently. Climate change has the characteristics of a collective action problem at the global scale…..”

Then why are we acting unilaterally, we may well ask?

May’s plan, never mind ‘far-Green’ “climate emergencies”, will be incredibly damaging to both jobs and families suffering fuel poverty, whose numbers will continue to rise.

Shetlanders who have a social conscience or are suffering fuel poverty themselves should not vote for any candidate advocating such epic folly.

John Tulloch