SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has supported calls for the establishment of a social tariff for those who need it, with discounted energy bills, as well as broadband and mobile charges. Energy and telecommunications policy are both reserved to the UK Government, meaning the Scottish Government is currently very limited in terms of its ability to make any substantial changes in these areas, but it will press the UK Government for action.

The islands’ MSP’s comments come following the publication of a report by The Energy Advisory Service (TEAS) arm of Tighean Innse Gall, “Warmth at Home in the Western Isles”, funded by the British Gas Energy Trust. The report’s findings show that Western Isles households remain worst off in the country in terms of fuel poverty and extreme fuel poverty.

During his visit to the Western Isles last week, First Minister John Swinney announced that the Scottish Government and SNP MPs would press for proposals for a new statutory “social tariff” to help protect people on low incomes, the elderly and the disabled from rising costs. The proposal would be funded by a mixture of general taxation and “top slicing” the profits of energy companies, and could result in some households’ bills being cut by as much as half. The party also pledged to continue advocating for the introduction of a local energy rebate for areas involved in producing green energy, as well as fighting to end price discrimination against residents in off gas grid homes.

In order to tackle fuel poverty in the Western Isles, one of the key recommendations within TEAS’s report include the need to address the inequalities within the current energy market structure, as well as the importance of accounting for the needs of households not on the gas grid in terms of any social tariffs offered by utility companies, and the need to keep fuel poverty high on the agenda at all strategic levels.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:

“I would like to thank those involved in the creation of this important report, giving an up-to-date picture of the rates of fuel poverty here in the Western Isles. Households across our islands are unfortuately continuing to suffer the effects of high inflation and austerity, made worse by poor decisions at Westminster, coupled with the UK Government’s attitude of total indifference regarding the urgent need to review and remodel the current unfair energy system.

“With the full powers of independence, we could do so much more to tackle this issue, but in the meantime, the Scottish Government will continue to push the government at Westminster on the need to substantially overhaul UK energy policy. I, along with party colleagues, believe that we should introduce a social tariff for those that need it; significantly cut standing charges for all, and remove standing charges for prepayment meter customers; combine the Warm Home Discount and Energy Company Obligation to create a single, flexible fuel poverty scheme in Scotland; and introduce a fair energy pricing and rebate scheme for the Highlands and Islands. It is not right that those living in the areas producing the most renewable energy are still the ones being hit with the highest bills.

“The UK Government, whatever its form come the 5th July, must actually engage with island and rural communities on this issue, as well as finally invest properly in upgrading the National Grid to meet the energy needs of today and tomorrow. Meanwhile, I will continue to advocate for the needs of rural and island communities, in order to eradicate fuel poverty once and for all.”



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