Households rationing electricity usage by over 50% and instead burning imported gas in portable heaters to keep their homes warm is deplorable in renewables-rich Orkney.
That was the view of Orkney and Shetland SNP candidate Robert Leslie as he backed a resolution at the SNP conference in Aberdeen to bring energy resources into public control.
The resolution called for the SNP to plan for an independent Scotland ‘to bring our energy resources into public control, and to commit to building the infrastructure for this as soon as practically possible’.
It stated that Scotland having more control over its energy resources would allow the building of wellbeing and human rights into fuel provision, ensuring those in poverty never again bear the brunt of any future energy crisis.
Speaking in support, Mr Leslie said: “Breaking the price link between electricity and gas should be a no brainer when Orkney generates more clean, green electricity than we can use — and we don’t have mains gas.”
He highlighted how, between 2019 and 2022, the value of electricity vouchers issued by affordable warmth charity THAW Orkney escalated from just over £4000 to almost £33,000.
“Alongside that, in 2021-22 the charity used £41,400 of Scottish Government flexible funding for financial insecurity to enhance electricity voucher values, including tripling the value of vouchers to families with children from £30 to £90 — to recognise the rising cost of electricity.
“At the same time over £107,000 of Scottish Government Home Heating Support Fund awards helped over 200 Orkney households keep their heating on. These scenarios will have been replicated across Scotland as energy costs rocketed.”
Mr Leslie added: “The SNP government is spending tens of millions of pounds mitigating the impacts of the UK’s broken energy system.
“We need the powers to make Scotland’s energy work for Scotland’s people — not shareholders.”
Mr Leslie said that the impact of rising electricity costs went beyond cold, damp homes.
“Poor physical and mental health, social isolation and folk leaving their communities for urban areas all spin off from this. Fuel poverty is a driver of rural and island depopulation.”
Mr Leslie also described how Orkney electricity customers often had to fight to get broken meters replaced, with hours on phones or online chats spent persuading companies to send engineers from mainland Scotland.
He said: “What Britain’s broken energy system is doing to vulnerable folk across Scotland is shameful. As a colleague said recently, the only reason the UK energy retail sector still exists is because it can’t not exist. Scotland will do so much better once we have the powers over our own energy system.”