Fuel poverty is everywhere in our community; it hits those who work and those who are unable to; it hits people with disabilities especially hard and has a hugely detrimental effect on affected children.
I recently chaired a cross-party inquiry looking into the impact of fuel poverty on people living with a terminal illness. It was devastating to hear just how many people living with terminal illnesses spend their last days in fuel poverty. No family should have to endure the worry of heating a home while caring for a sick relative, never mind one with whom they are spending their last moments. Everyone deserves dignity while dying.
Fuel poverty is always a huge concern here in the Highlands, especially throughout winter. Households already pay more for electricity because of unfair geographical surcharges; add that we have a higher proportion of households off the grid, the surge in energy prices, rising food costs, tory cuts to Universal Credit, and we have a perfect winter storm of misery ahead for many people in our community.
Last week I visited some local charities and food banks, who are doing fantastic work supporting people who need a helping hand. Several of them report that more people than ever before are requesting cold food parcels because they cannot afford to cook food.
Imagine how cold their home will be this winter if they cannot afford to even heat their food.
To make the impact needed to tackle fuel poverty, the UK Government needs to end its attack on the poorest in our society. The UK already has the highest poverty levels in Western Europe, and this tory Government seems intent on widening the gap even further. Their choices do not reflect the values of our society, and with the powers to make these decisions in Scotland, we will have the opportunity to make different choices.
Here in the Highlands, we are in a preposterous situation where we generate the electricity, pay more to transmit it, and get it back. I’ve raised this issue with the UK Government Ministers countless times – they know the problem – they just choose not to act.
This will be an exceptionally tough winter for many hard-pressed families, and if you or anyone you know is struggling, there is help out there. Reach out to local charities or get in touch with my office – my team and I are here to help.
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