IT’S becoming something of an annual tradition: the march of the Big Six energy companies valiantly reaching out to just let you know that an increase on the cost of your electricity and gas is on the horizon – along with the simpering, hand-wringing regrets that such an increase is unfortunately out of their control.

But riddle me this: if big energy suppliers are in a constant battle to stay afloat in the face of rising costs, hitting pensioners with price hikes that leave them choosing between heating or eating, then why do these same organisations inevitably come to post record-breaking operating profits with such consistency?

In light of the Big Six banking more than seven and a half billion pounds in cumulative earnings before interest and taxes in just the past five years, the annual appeal from suppliers feels less like an honest update on the intricacies of the market and more like a prank phone call; a boardroom of suits giggling and egging their friend holding the phone on to see just how far they can push it.

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Leaving all of us with no real alternative other than paying out the nose to keep the lights on, it feels offensively disingenuous to characterise reckless profiteering for the company’s golden shareholders as an unfortunate yet necessary course of action; something the energy sector clearly knows, given its history of attempting to hide profits from the public lest the situation turns any uglier.

It’s with this in mind that, when I talk about securing energy independence for Scotland, I mean not only from a degree of dependence on imported fossil fuels but also the profit-oriented companies that actively exploit our needs.

The invasion of Ukraine, and the subsequent discussion of sanctions on Russian oil and gas imports has started another conversation on our inability to sustain ourselves in the face of a global crisis. While the UK is not so reliant on Russian oil and gas as much of the rest of Europe, that in no way means we should not be seeking a better solution to the future of our fuel and energy needs.

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Given the limited nature of oil and gas as a resource, it was inevitable that in giving dominance and power to the industry, that power would flow to those who control the resource. And now here we are, seemingly in a position of being unable to fully, ethically divest from oil and gas due to our over reliance on it.

Britain is facing a legitimate and serious cost-of-living crisis across the board, and yet it has not stopped our energy companies from considerably jacking up the prices of electricity and gas even as they continue to post these profits. It is perverse that the Big Six are trying to justify a price increase of up to £693 a year immediately following recorded profits of £3.06 billion in 2020 alone.

Yet despite this stranglehold on the economy and on people living in Scotland that these parasitic entities hold, there still remains a bizarre stronghold of support for investing further into the industries that give them dominance. SNP MSP Fergus Ewing (below), the former energy minister, went as far as describing the Scottish Green Party’s views on oil and gas as “extreme” just last week.

The National: Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, gives his annual speech to the NFUS AGM
 Ref:RH07022009  Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer

Setting aside for a second the ecological argument on why this is beyond ignorant, why should anyone even consider the case that maintaining and investing in famously volatile industries is in any way the solution to the problems caused by said industries?

Particularly when Scotland is poised to be a manufacturing powerhouse in renewable energy and fossil fuel decommissioning, spending the money on maintaining the old power structures can only hinder the growth of potential and necessary future industries and the just transition toward them.

Of course, beyond an investment in green and renewable sectors, there also needs to be a firm commitment to keeping the exploitations of energy companies outwith our future energy plans – and in this area the Scottish Government have so far spectacularly failed.

The once-promised not-for-profit national energy company, unveiled by the SNP at their Glasgow conference in 2017 and due to be running by 2021, has quietly disappeared. And with its failure to materialise, the ScotWind project has found itself under the wings once again of others who will milk a profit from it at the expense of Scots, rather than finding itself under the purview of a state-owned operator.

This failure to build energy independence has only ever left us either at the whims of despotic leaders like Putin or price-gouging CEOs and profiteers – and in all cases it is the people of Scotland who suffer as a result.

Energy independence, achieved with the express goal of supplying cheap, clean energy over building the bank accounts of the wealthy, is a necessary goal for the future; one that will keep electricity affordable and can bring a manufacturing revolution to Scotland.