COMMENT: PM NEEDS TO GET A GRIP ON UK ENERGY CRISIS

A new year is seen as a chance for a fresh start. But here we are just a week into 2022 and Boris Johnson is yet again embroiled in Tory sleaze at Westminster.

It appears the PM’s carelessness with the truth may finally catching up with him. From rule-breaking Covid parties, to allegations of corruption and ‘cash for access’ – these are certainly troubling times for the Prime Minister.

And yet the pressures on the PM pale in comparison to the hardship facing my constituents due to the worsening cost-of-living crisis. The Resolution Foundation has warned that millions of families across the UK face a hit of £1,200 to their finances in 2022 due to soaring energy bills, rising inflation and Tory tax rises.

29% of households in West Dunbartonshire already live in fuel poverty. And every week I hear from more constituents worried about the costs of heating their homes. It’s expected that the energy price cap will rise by 50% in April, adding more than £500 to average energy bills. This will be devastating to already struggling families and comes on top of soaring inflation which is set to reach 6% by the Spring.

The proportion of people in poverty who live in a working household is now at a record high in the UK. And yet the Tory government’s answer to the cost-of-living crisis is to cut £20 a week from Universal Credit and press ahead with a National Insurance tax hike in April.

Boris Johnson told us Brexit would bring lower energy bills for everyone, but the costs of gas and electricity are spiralling out of control as the UK government sits on its hands. The energy crisis falls firmly at the door of No. 10, and they need to act now to ease the financial pressures on families facing the difficult choice between heating or eating.

With the levers of power at Westminster, the SNP is calling for the Chancellor to introduce an emergency package of financial support to tackle the UK’s energy crisis. It’s the poorest who bear the biggest brunt of high energy prices, so an extended low-income energy payment is urgently needed on top of a cut to VAT on energy bills. The UK government should also categorically rule out any further rises to the energy price cap for the time being – and provide emergency loans and financial support to the energy suppliers on the brink of collapse.

If Scotland had the full powers of a normal independent country, we could make these decisions for ourselves. Instead, for now, we are at the whim of Boris Johnson – a Prime Minister seemingly more interested in furnishing his luxury flat than helping struggling families.

This article was written for publication in the Clydebank Post.