WHILE Scotland produces more energy than it consumes, an Ayrshire MSP’s Warm Spaces in Churches initiative opens its doors. SNP MSP Siobhian Brown shares why communities should not be having to rely on warm banks this year, even if it is in fact their reality.

At the end of July 2022, I wrote to the churches in my constituency of Ayr, Prestwick, and Troon, to highlight that I was extremely concerned for the welfare of many of my constituents this winter.

I shared with them how, in the past two months, my office had been contacted by people who are in desperate situations, unable to afford food and fearful of the cost of heating their homes as the colder weather approaches.

In response to this, several of the churches in the three towns are now offering warm spaces this winter. The response has been heart-warming and, of course, will be a massive comfort to many as we enter the colder months of the year.

In response to this on October 23, The Glasgow Times reported 216 warm banks were opened by councils in Scotland - in libraries, leisure centres and in church halls.

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Scotland, of course, has no monopoly on such compassion and throughout September and October, churches from Leeds to Weymouth have opened their doors to those struggling to pay to heat their homes or to feed themselves and their families.

In Cornwall, the call went out to churches in late August and it’s heart-warming to know that there were others out there with concerns like mine. I hope we can all serve as an inspiration for community hubs such as churches to step up and help.

I am grateful to see the churches in Ayr throw open their doors to help the most vulnerable this winter and I applaud them for their compassion and hard work. However, we all know that these initiatives should not be required in 21st century Scotland.

Scotland produces more than 60% of all UK natural gas, six times its own needs, and transfers huge amounts of electricity from renewables across the border.

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In just three months, between April and March 2022, electricity transfers from Scotland to England rose to nearly 3 Gigawatts (GWh) per hour. According to Ofgem, 1 GWh will power 1 million homes, so 3 GWh would power 3-million homes. There are less than 3-million homes in Scotland.

Despite this, Scottish consumers pay more to heat their homes.

According to research reported in the Daily Record, an average household in Scotland pays around £1,651 per year for energy compared to £1,554 in England and £1,525 in Wales.

This new need for warm spaces in the winter of 2022, like the emergence of food banks all over Scotland in the last few years, tells us something important about the next independence referendum.

As the English writer George Monbiot said in 2014, "Scots voting no to independence would be an astonishing act of self-harm."