Energy price rises will ‘strike fear’ into hearts of locals and businesses in area
Last week, new forecasts suggested that the energy price cap will rise by 82 per cent in October, taking average annual bills to £3582.
Further analysis suggests that the energy cap will rise once more in January to £4266 per year.
These figures will strike fear into the hearts of households and businesses across Perthshire.
These prices are, quite simply, unaffordable for so many in our society.
To put it into perspective, Universal Credit for a single claimant over 25 pays £4018.92 per year - less than the projected annual cost of energy bills from January onwards.
It is abundantly clear that urgent, bold and proactive steps are required to protect households and businesses who, through no fault of their own, now find themselves unable to afford the most basic necessities.
The power to adequately address this crisis, however, does not lie with the Scottish Government.
Steps like cancelling the upcoming price rise, scrapping VAT on fuel and implementing a windfall tax on the profits of energy companies can only implemented by the UK government.
And that is why it is so urgent that the Tory government gets to work on tackling this emergency, rather than focusing on their internal leadership contest.
For our part, the Scottish Government is doing all that we can with the very limited powers we possess.
Last week, the First Minister convened a meeting of the Scottish Government’s resilience committee, and a number of actions to address this crisis were agreed.
Among these actions was an agreement to maximise the direct financial assistance available to those most in need, principally through ongoing work to extend eligibility for and increase the value of the Scottish Child Payment, and to bring together energy companies, banks and food retailers to examine what further help can be provided by these businesses to limit cost increases and protect those most vulnerable.
Additionally, it was agreed that we will undertake an emergency budget review to assess any and all opportunities to redirect additional resources to those most in need, reduce the burdens on business and stimulate the Scottish economy.
However, it is worth noting that the Scottish Government has no power to borrow money.
Indeed, in real terms, our yearly budget has been cut by Westminster.
As such, we will not be able to increase our budget to help households and business through this crisis, but rather ensure that we are allocating our existing funds as efficiently as possible.
It is precisely for reasons like this that the UK government must urgently take the lead on tackling this emergency.
Indeed, its current failure to propose any meaningful solutions to this crisis is a disgraceful dereliction of duty that will potentially have tragic consequences for many people.