WITH the energy cap expected to rise to £3500, many are looking at a long, cold and dark winter. We are on the verge of a social emergency of the likes that we haven’t seen for generations.

A lot of people are already struggling to keep their heads above water, with many of the rural Highland and Island communities that I represent being hit particularly hard. Wages are often lower than in other parts of the country, and the colder climate means that skyrocketing energy costs are even more painful.

Last year, a Scottish Government report found that people in rural communities are three times more likely to be experiencing fuel poverty than the Scottish average.

The same report put the minimum costs involved with living in rural Scotland as between 15% and 30% higher than in urban parts of the country, with significant additional costs on food, clothing, home delivery, household goods, holidays and travel.

All these daunting statistics paint a very concerning picture. But they are also from before the current crunch. A lot of people who were already struggling will be finding things even worse.

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Every day, my office is contacted by people who are worried about the future. Some are scared for their elderly relatives, who will be freezing over winter, and others are concerned about their children and their grandchildren and what the future will hold for them.

We can’t go on like this.

The crisis we are in could easily become a generation-defining crisis, with an impact even more seismic than the 2008 crash. We need to meet it with bold and ambitious solutions that recognise this threat.

Last week, my Green colleagues and I published a six-point plan to mitigate the worst of the impacts and to provide support to the many people who need it.

Around three-quarters of people get their energy from just five providers. How can it be right that those companies are making eye-watering profits while many of the people who rely on them are being forced to choose between heating and eating?

By taking their UK operations into public ownership, we can remove the focus on profit maximisation and ensure that they work for people and the planet.

Secondly, we called for Downing Street to reverse the energy price cap rises, taking prices back to October 2021 levels. This could transform the financial outlook and well-being of millions of families.

There is a big role for Government in providing direct support to people. With Greens in Government here, we have doubled the Scottish Child Payment, making it worth £1000 for every eligible child. This has been a lifeline for thousands of children and their parents.

That is why our third call was for the UK Government to bring back the £20 Universal Credit uplift from the pandemic, and then double it. The decision to cut it in the first place was a cruel and unnecessary one and is being felt in wallets and household budgets all over our country.

Fourthly, we called for them to raise the national minimum wage to a level that would allow a Real Living Wage for all.

By increasing the money in people’s pockets, we can help them through the worst of the storm while reducing inequality and providing far greater stability and peace of mind for the future.

Again, it is an area where we are turning words into action, with the Bute House agreement between the Scottish Greens and the SNP, ensuring that all government contracts pay at least the living wage.

One way we can fund this is by taxing those who have profited from the crisis. Our fifth step would be the introduction of a real windfall tax that avoids all the exemptions and loopholes of Rishi Sunak’s energy profits levy.

Over recent years, we have seen a 5% cut to the Scottish Parliament block grant, which was already biting before we saw soaring inflation. That is why our final step would be the introduction of an inflation-proofed block grant for Holyrood so that Scottish services and workers are not paying the price for its failures.

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It’s not just Scottish solutions that I am interested in, it’s also local ones. The Highlands & Islands have been blessed with the skills, infrastructure and geography to be at the forefront of the green industrial revolution that we so badly need. We need to harness these resources while ensuring that local people are at the heart of our decisions. I don’t want to take power from Westminster just to keep it in Holyrood, I want it to be put in the hands of every town and community.

When the people I represent write to me, I want to be able to assure them. I want to be able to tell them that they are safe and that it will be ok. But how can I when the purse strings are controlled by Boris Johnson?

I can see the good work we are undertaking here in Scotland, and how much it means to my Green colleagues. But the most important decisions, and the ones that will make the biggest difference, are outwith our control.

Whether we live in the busiest city or the smallest village, our lives are going to change over the weeks and months ahead. Even at this late stage, there is still time for the Prime Minister and his colleagues to recognise the damage they are doing and take the bold steps that are needed to reverse it and build a fairer, greener future.

Every day of inaction is another day that people are falling into debt and worrying about their future.

The money and the resources are there. What it needs is a far greater willingness, empathy and political courage than Westminster has shown to date.