FOR the majority of my constituents, this cost of living crisis that we are hurtling into rudderless will be the most financially difficult period they have ever faced. Unlike the financial crash of 2008 or Covid, we are seeing the price of everyday items skyrocketing with little to no help from the UK Government and a total abdication of leadership from a zombie Prime Minister.

On a near-weekly basis, we are seeing forecasts for fuel costs going up and up, and the price of everything in the shops increasing far beyond the level of inflation we are being told is the case on the news. While inflation may well be about 12% nationally, for those on lower, or no wages, it is closer to 30%. It is likely that by the middle of winter the average fuel bill per month will be more than the state pension or average Universal Credit payment.

For months I have been questioning Tory ministers and writing to the Chancellor, asking them to do more to help those who are rapidly falling into fuel poverty. One simple thing they can do is extend the deadline for applying for Pension Credits on time to be eligible for the £650 cost of living payment.

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The deadline passed on Thursday but I want them to extend it to March 31, 2023. There is no reason I can see for ministers to refuse this suggestion other than it comes from an SNP MP and that it would help people in need, something they are not particularly keen on.

Over the past few weeks, my team and I have been working across the constituency to raise awareness and get as many people signed up for Pension Credits as possible. This has involved attending lots of bingo games and chatting with hundreds of people, many of whom were totally unaware that this was something they were entitled to.

Many others were aware but chose not to apply because they see it as charity. It’s not, it’s a legal entitlement. For those people, the £650 one-off payment really concentrates their minds and it acts as a big incentive to make that application. I know it’s not enough but it’s still a not insignificant amount of money in these terrible times.

Something like 40% of people who are entitled to Pension Credits don’t apply and another reason is that they think it will be complicated. So for those who didn’t have the confidence to do it themselves, my team got them booked into my office in Springburn and did it for them.

If even a fraction of the many hundreds of pensioners we spoke to are successful with their applications, that will be tens of thousands of pounds in the pockets of folk in Glasgow rather than in the coffers of Westminster.

Just because the deadline has passed though does not mean I will be giving up this fight. In fact, it is only just beginning. I will continue to insist to ministers and the new prime minister that they extend that deadline to the end of the financial year because it is only when the cold weather sets in that the reality of this crisis will hit home for some people.

With Westminster sitting again soon, I will also seek to introduce a 10-minute rule bill to abolish standing orders on prepayment meters and outlaw “self-disconnection”. It is unconscionable that even without using gas or electricity, people can rack up bills and that those on prepayment meters are classed as having voluntarily disconnected themselves because they cannot afford to top up.

I pay by Direct Debit. If I stop paying my bills there is a lengthy process my energy company has to go through to cut me off. Not so for those on these meters. Once their £10 emergency credit runs out, that is it – no heat, no light, simply cut off. How can they have fewer rights than me?

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Those standing charges have been steadily increasing and some people are now paying up to £200 a year before they use a penny of energy. Removing these charges would reduce the chance of those on prepayment meters facing disconnection and prevent people all over the UK from topping up their meter only to find they still have zero credit. With the SNP Glasgow City Council and community organisations across the city looking to have buildings open to the public as much as possible to ensure people have a warm place to sit during the day, we need those with the real power to act now.

The Tory government has been at a standstill for months, arguing over who hates immigrants the most to appeal to their base rather than taking action to alleviate the hardship being felt across these islands. Like most of you, I have no faith in the UK Government to adequately address the needs of the people of Scotland and I loathe the fact that we are just bystanders in a two-donkey race for Number 10.

The SNP in Westminster will do everything we can to force the Tories to pay attention to those in need rather than their paymasters but it is clear that to protect the people of Scotland we must press on and win independence now.