THE “can’t pay, won’t pay” campaign didn’t single handedly derail the much reviled poll tax, but it did spell a victory for people power; for the ability of communities to work together in the face of intolerable demands.

The iniquitous inequality of the so called “community charge” was as nothing ­compared with the scale of the disaster now facing us all.

This onrushing crisis seems another ­moment in time when people power could come into its own again – the question is whether or not we have the appetite for wholesesale direct action.

One essential would be those who can pay making common cause with those who can’t – something which happened to an extent with the poll tax campaign. Because there’s little point in supposing everyone will suffer equally; sure everyone’s bills will skyrocket, but some will be able to take the financial hit whilst others are effectively wiped out.

You can bet what may well be your ­bottom dollar the energy companies are not going roll over in the face of thousands of defaulters. They will threaten all manner of sanctions – some of which are idle threats, some not. They may impose prepayment meters. On top of which people will rightly fret about the impact on their credit ­ratings, wages or benefits.

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Yet doing nothing is not an option either, unless we are comfortable with the thought of huge swathes of our fellow citizens ­being cold, hungry and possibly homeless. ­ Judging by the pronouncements of Tory front ­runner Liz Truss, surely a daughter of Spock, there will be little in the way of empathy from that quarter. She is the ­chocolate fireguard facing the flickering flames which threaten to engulf millions of electors.

In truth the political classes as a whole seem unable to offer anything much ­beyond empty rhetoric. Boris Johnson’s last ­minute decision to pop into the energy summit this week produced precisely zero new ­initiatives.

Maybe the excessively well paid bosses of the fossil fuel industries are too busy counting their profits to pay attention to the man about to be filed under yesterday’s news.

“Profit is not a dirty word”, intoned Truss to the Tory faithful last week in ­Cheltenham, a cosy corner of ­Gloucestershire which housed more than 4000 millionaires at the last available count.

How about profits many times the norm Lizzie? How about using them to shovel more money to shareholders or buy back share schemes while your customers can’t feed their kids? Or use their cooker?

And anyway, what the hell are you and Rishi Sunak doing horsing about the ­nations and regions explaining to your tribe what a bourach you had all made of governing during the years you sat round the same cabinet table?

Any government worthy of the name would look aghast at the scale of the ­impending disaster and find a more ­fruitful and logical means of pursuing the succession. This travelling circus is nothing more than high level dereliction of duty.

Meanwhile an ex Labour PM raged about the calamitous unfolding of ­economic events, as the would be Labour PM seemed to have had some difficulty extracting his tongue from the cat. After a brief intervention in Edinburgh, it seems his thoughts will not be fully unwrapped until tomorrow.

Back at the Scottish ranch the First ­Minister, fresh from a meeting of her ­resilience team, vowed to do ­everything she could “within our powers and ­resources including an emergency budget review” but added that the key powers and resources lay with the UK ­Government.

Yet to take a particularly egregious ­example, Scotland, which is leading the field in renewables, is tied to a system which means generators pay the ­highest charges in the UK to connect to the ­national grid, whilst some in the south of England are actually paid to link up. Energy, like so much else, is a reserved matter.

However, we are not without industrial muscle, given how dependant the UK market is on Scottish renewable energy. If this current disaster isn’t the time for insisting on an instant rebalancing of the payment regime when would be?

We have tried sweet reason. We have tried introducing inevitably limited ­legislation. The so called “Scottish Affairs Committee” has indicated how unhappy they are. And we have driven straight into the brick wall of Westminster intransigence, not least because they’re happy hoovering up all those massive charges.

The “enough is enough” campaign is garnering thousands of people right now; scared people, desperate people, people living with intolerable stress, who know that, unlike the Sunak mantra, hard work doesn’t always pay. They know they can work all the hours they’re sent, do two and three jobs, scrimp and save and make do until there’s no more mending.

They also know that other ­governments in Europe have found ways to help ­protect people from higher energy costs. ­Emmanuel Macron for instance has ­promised that French electors’ bills will rise by no more than 4%. Of course it helps that the main source of power in France is nationalised. Quite.

But even Germany, which is taking the biggest hit from Vladimir Putin’s ­bellicose ambitions, is trying to spread the load ­between government action and individual energy needs.

We need to weaponise our own anger at the refusal of the UK Government to do similar. The Scottish Government needs to as well. We need, to quote the movie Network, to show that “we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more”.

We are past the point of reasonable inter action with the UK Government, partly because they won’t talk to us in any meaningful way, and partly because for these many vital months they’ve been ­totally awol. They’ve been termed a ­zombie government. Unfair to zombies.

The psychology of next steps is ­complicated by the fact that we seem to have lost the habit of targeted protest. And we belittle and disparage those who understand the gravity and peril of our collective circumstances.

This winter is likely to see families across Scotland struggling to pay their heating bills

A potent example is Extinction ­Rebellion, the group who take direct ­action to persuade fellow citizens of the devastating impact of climate change. Now you might think with wild fires, droughts, floods, and crazy temperatures becoming the norm, folks would have ­accepted that the planet is in real danger of being bumped off by its residents.

But when these protesters try to ­emphasise their point by blocking roads, they get dog’s abuse for interfering with commuters who might have urgent ­business. The current UK Government has a solution for this. They just want to throw protestors in the nick, and make public protest illegal. Simple. You don’t like our policies – tell it to the judge/­sheriff/magistrate.

So do we wait until it becomes illegal even to voice an opinion in public? Do we wait till the current UK justice secretary makes it impossible for a judicial review of his government? Do we wait till a plane load of asylum seekers is finally assembled and dispatched to Rwanda? Just what will it take to get us mad enough to stand our ground?

Fighting amongst ourselves is totally a mug’s game. We need to take the fight to the people who are simultaneously responsible for the mess we’re in, and apparently incapable of doing anything humane and effective to ameliorate the ­effects of their incompetence.

The poll tax protest led to ugly riots. That can’t be the answer.

Yet the people who are being hung out to dry may have no energy left to mount a campaign of civil disobedience. It is an ­energy sapping business just trying to keep your family show on the road when everything including the kitchen sink is being thrown at your budgeting.

So this one is down to the rest of us. We can’t fail our fellow citizens.