FIRST, let me say “Happy New Year” to all at The National.

You may recall my letter of December 7 concerning the calculations I made on projected income and expenditure against my pension increase for the coming year. This week I received an email from my gas and electric supplier concerning their proposed increases that has knocked my sums for six!

I don’t mind giving you actual figures so that the exorbitant increases can be verified.

Because I am a pensioner on state pension and pension credit only, I like to try to have a fixed monthly price for my utilities and pay it by banker’s order. It usually means I have to pay a couple of pounds per month more than their minimum contract price, but it gives me the benefit of paying the same price every month. In effect I am agreeing to pay for more than I use during the summer and building up a surplus that covers the extra use (for the same price), during the winter. My contract runs from March to February each year.

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Last year they estimated my usage at £645.36 for the year or £53.78 per month. I qualify for the warm home payment each year, so to date I have paid them £677.80. I started last year with a credit balance of £183.95 on my account. Therefore, the full credit they have had over the 10 months is £861.75, being those two figures added together. The charge for gas and electric used to date is £488.45. That means my credit balance would now have been £373.30 except that about two months ago, when the credit reached £250, I asked for some of it back and they gave me a cheque for £165.68, so my actual credit balance is presently £207.62. January and February are the two “highest use” months of the year. But if my usage is on a par with last year then I should use about £25.26 more than my monthly payments during that time, and my balance carried forward this year will only be £1.59 less than it was last year, at £182.36.

For the coming year, they have estimated I will use £777.95 of gas and electric. The lowest price they are prepared to offer me is £64.83 per month. This would cover the £777.95 estimate but they will not make that a fixed price. It will go up or down with prices rises or drops – more likely rises. This represents a MINIMUM PRICE RISE OF 20.73%, against the 3.1% pension rise that this Tory Westminster government is grudgingly giving pensioners this year.

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If I want a fixed price for the whole year, then the normal price would be £123.49. That represents a 129.62% PRICE INCREASE. It would also represent 20% of my entire pension payment! However, as a customer of more than five months, they are prepared to offer me a concessionary fixed-price contract at £102.09 per month. THAT IS STILL AN INCREASE OF 89.83%. It also means I would be paying £1225 for the year – plus the warm home discount that they receive direct from the government. That means a total payment to them of £1365 against their estimate of £777.95. Am I being daft, or is that exorbitant?

In Friday’s National, you had an article by Gregor Young telling us that “Scots energy producers are unfairly penalised” for using the National Grid. No doubt they pass those charges on to us, the consumers. So, I wonder just how much of the above calculations will be going in unfair charges direct to the Westminster Exchequer?

There was also an article by Michael Russell (“Plenty to guess and fear as we go into the New Year”) which pointed out that “the group least likely to vote Yes is that comprised of the over-60s”. Well, Michael, there’s your answer. Just show them, from the above, how the Tories are deliberately undermining their pensions and promise them better from an independent Scotland, like increased pensions and re-nationalisation of our utilities. You’ve got to tell them, face to face or by email – even use billboards, if you have to. You can’t rely on the press or TV – they are all Unionist-inclined. But sitting talking about it or writing in The National is not enough. You have to make sure the people concerned are actually informed. It needs action and publicity and – like independence itself – it’s needed now.

Charlie Kerr