THE soaring price of gas and electricity is without doubt the biggest political crisis Britain has faced for some time. Keir Starmer has described it as “a national emergency”. Martin Lewis, the money-saving guru, sees it is as a challenge every bit as significant as the pandemic. The former Tory energy minister Lord Howell has even urged the government to “put the country on a war footing” to deal with it! And, in my view, they are all right.

The Financial Times pointed out on August 23 that “the price changes effective on October 1st could see a pensioner, reliant on the state pension of £185.15/week, forced to spend 40% of their income on energy bills.”

“Fuel poverty” is defined as spending 10% of your income on energy. “Extreme fuel poverty” is when a household is spending 20% on this one bill. 40% was virtually unheard of, until now!

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The same newspaper has warned Liz Truss that her “first 100 days as Prime Minister will be dominated by civil unrest if people stop paying their energy bills.” With her political opponents demanding she freeze prices, Truss will surely not survive for long if she doesn’t.

The political mood across Britain is increasingly desperate and angry. I should know, for I have been campaigning four days a week on Edinburgh’s Princes Street petitioning shoppers to help “eradicate fuel poverty”. I have spoken to thousands of people from all over Scotland, Britain and internationally who have signed up demanding Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon offer immediate support to those unable to buy the gas and electricity they need.

Scottish Socialist Party activists have been pressing for action to eradicate fuel poverty since the COP26 gathering in Glasgow last November. Yet the problem has grown and grown as the price of natural gas has risen and risen. This catastrophic failure of “the market” has compelled governments the world over to intervene. Britain is not unique, nor are the Tory government the only ones forced to spend billions on this “emergency”. But it has not been enough.

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Ten million families in Britain now find themselves unable to pay for the gas and electricity they need. And that is before the bills go up a further 80% in October! Throughout the summer they have been rationing their use of cookers, washing machines, showers and fridge/freezers. Consequently, the level of food poisoning and personal hygiene for example are now causing alarm with public health professionals.

Whilst cutting back on their energy use, I see people registering their discontent every day at the situation in which they find themselves. And it is unlikely to recede any time soon. The SSP has called on Liz Truss to freeze the bills for a year and to ensure all those in fuel poverty are lifted out of it.

Meanwhile, the Edinburgh End Fuel Poverty Coalition has called a protest outside HM Government in Scotland’s headquarters in Edinburgh on October 1 to press this message home. We hope as many people as possible will assemble there and reinforce the message that not enough is being done to ward off the inevitable consequences fuel poverty entails as winter looms.

Colin Fox
Scottish Socialist Party national spokesman

BORIS Johnson’s boast that the UK has the fastest-growing economy in the G7 will mean little to the many now facing the prospect of a winter dominated by cold and hunger as a result of the astronomical 80% rise in Ofgem’s price cap. Is this Tory government ever going to accept that the energy crisis has reached the stage where it must act in accordance with its primary responsibility of protecting and safeguarding the lives of its citizens?

John Jamieson
South Queensferry