CONSERVATIVE MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston says he shares concerns from Shetland Islands Council about the expected sharp rise in fuel poverty – while he also supports calls for the isles to get greater benefits from energy developments on their doorstep.
Halcro Johnston, who represents the Highlands and Islands, said rising energy prices need to be at the “very top of the in-tray” for the next prime minister, who is due to be announced next week.
Meanwhile Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said the “Conservatives and the SNP have been caught like deer in the headlights” on the issue.
New analysis from Shetland Islands Council suggests that 96 per cent of households in the isles could be in fuel poverty come April as energy bills rise dramatically.
Estimates suggest that come spring a household may need to bring in £104,000 a year before they are out of fuel poverty, which is when 10 per cent or more of income is spent on energy.
With the cost of heating homes much higher in Shetland compared to the rest of the country, SIC leader Emma Macdonald has written to chancellor of the exchequer Nadhim Zahawi stressing the need for immediate action.
The chancellor’s party colleague Halcro Johnston said more needs to be done than the £37 billion already committed by the UK Government to support people in need.
“As an MSP, I want to see governments at all levels working together on these challenges,” he said.
“That will require not just a package of measures from the UK Government, but also for the Scottish Government to take action in the areas of its responsibility.
“This must include not only direct support for issues like energy efficiency – ensuring schemes like those supporting insulation are ramped up in response to this crisis – but also making sure that councils are properly resourced to help some of the most acute problems at a local level.
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“Sadly, with bin strikes and other industrial action impacting on communities across Scotland this week after yet more cuts to local government funding, it seems unlikely that adequate support will be forthcoming from Edinburgh.”
He added: “Emma Macdonald also touches on Shetland’s long history as an energy producer.
“Whether it’s the long established oil and gas sector, or the expansion of renewables, it is absolutely right to consider how communities who host these installations get more benefit from them, and that is a conversation that we must take on.”
Meanwhile Wishart’s party, the Liberal Democrats, have called on the planned energy price cap rise on 1 October to effectively be called off.
They want to see the government pay suppliers the shortfall instead, which could be covered by an oil and gas windfall tax.
Wishart said: “My constituents already struggle with fuel poverty more than almost anywhere in the UK. These figures show the scale of the vast challenge ahead.
“One long-established business is saying that when they enter calculations for increasing energy costs in coming months they turn into a ‘substantially loss-making entity’.
“You shouldn’t have to be a millionaire to stay warm this winter.
“The Conservatives and the SNP have been caught like deer in the headlights. They must act now to spare families from soaring energy bills by cancelling October’s price cap increase.
“Liberal Democrats have set out plans to block the energy price rise before it happens, but we cannot wait weeks for a new Conservative prime minister to act.
“The government must step in now to help families and pensioners in the isles and beyond by cancelling the planned rise in energy bills.
“Nicola Sturgeon must get her act together too. She needs to put every penny of the Scottish Government’s budget helping hard hit households and kickstart an emergency insulation programme to bring down bills.”
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