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MSP Maree Todd writes to Chancellor Rishi Sunak as cost-of-living crisis escalates

By Scott Maclennan

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Maree Todd has written to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for action on the cost of energy.
Maree Todd has written to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for action on the cost of energy.

The plight of elderly constituents in the far north who are “scared” to turn on their heating has prompted MSP Maree Todd to call for action.

The Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP has written to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for action on the cost of energy.

She highlighted “the devastating and disproportionate impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on households in my constituency and across the Highlands”.

New figures show that close to half the homes in the Highlands are about to move into fuel poverty while Ms Todd claimed that “thus far, the UK government has failed to provide meaningful support to alleviate the financial pressures on households today”.

The Treasury did not respond to a request for comment after the MSP called for immediate action, including for the Chancellor to uprate benefits, review the UK’s energy pricing system, remove VAT from fuel and reduce fuel duty further.

She outlined the issues faced by the Highlands as already 33 per cent of households are experiencing fuel poverty and 22 per cent were facing extreme fuel poverty compared to the national average of 24 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.

But those figures were produced before the hike in National Insurance, the rise in the energy price cap and welfare cuts, and now Energy Action Scotland estimates that 47 per cent of Highland households will enter fuel poverty.

Ms Todd added that a significant contributor to soaring energy bills is “the limited availability of mains gas supply in the Highlands, where six in 10 households (58.2 per cent) are off the gas grid”.

That means the “limited options” available to off-grid consumers can see customers can pay three to four times more on their energy bills than the average household.

Ms Todd wrote: "The greatest injustice of the energy pricing system is that the Highlands is energy rich, with renewable assets in abundance but, despite many of our rural communities being net exporters of green electricity, households are still presented with some of the highest energy bills in the whole of the UK.

"The Highlands should be reaping the benefits of the energy it produces, but instead, the UK government has made the policy choice to penalise the region."

Ms Todd underlined her arguments by highlighting the case of elderly constituents who told her how they use extra blankets because they are scared to turn the heating up.

One couple told her: “We are both pensioners. We pay our electricity by monthly direct debit, but despite this, our last quarterly bill showed that we owed an additional £600.

“We arranged with SSE to increase our monthly direct debit to £215 per month but were horrified last week when following submitting a meter reading, we were advised that we now owe £1035 – this is over and above paying £645 and we just cannot sustain this kind of increase, especially when the known astronomic electricity price hike has not even come into force yet.

“We already do not use the heaters in the kitchen, bathroom or bedroom to try and cut costs, and sit with blankets round us on the very cold nights being too scared to turn the heating up.”

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