SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has called on the UK Government to commit to much stronger action to protect island households from the devastating impact of the latest rise in the fuel price cap. Yesterday, Ofgem announced that the price cap, which sets the average price for energy bills from utilities, will rise by 54% in April.
However, this could impact homes in the Western Isles to an even greater extent, as most local households have to pay energy costs 30-50% above the price cap rate as it is. Some estimates point to household bills increasing in the Hebrides by up to a staggering £1,500 a year from April.
Commenting after yesterday’s news, Allan said:
“While the UK Treasury’s energy bills rebate is a start, it is unfortunately nowhere near enough to be of real help to households who are going to be forced to somehow absorb this huge extra cost. Many families are already experiencing fuel poverty, particularly in the Western Isles.
“In my constituency we already face higher living costs, as well as transportation difficulties, a lack of affordable housing and lower average incomes – with our often-volatile weather, no gas grid outside of Stornoway, and an older population demographic, this latest price cap hike piles the pressure on those already struggling with the cost of living crisis.
“This is going to push more and more island households into having to choose between eating and heating, which is utterly unacceptable. I am already being contacted by constituents worried about how they are going to make ends meet, come April.
“We have a wealth of renewable energy resources all around us in the Hebrides, demonstrated by the fact that three of the Scotwind project’s new offshore wind farms will be situated off the shores of our islands. I believe a portion of the initial funds from the leasing round, as well as the expected community investment and future supply chain benefits, should be used to address the need for warmer homes in the Western Isles.
“However, we will never address the problem of fuel poverty simply by trying to mitigate the very worst measures taken by another government. The UK Government must recognise that more drastic action is needed by them to address the devastating impact of the fuel price crisis over which they are currently presiding.”
The Western Isles already experiences the worst levels of fuel poverty in the country. The new hike in the price gap, which Ofgem says is as a result of a fourfold rise in wholesale energy prices worldwide, is expected to cost most households on average £693 more per year.