My petrol light is a reminder it's not just my car running on empty - Christine Jardine

How I have come to detest the illumination of the low fuel light on my dashboards that necessitates a visit to the petrol station.

The irony of the cheery ‘bing!’ that comes with it creating a sharp juxtaposition to the consequences it brings and the threatening click, click, click as the numbers on the pump gauge climb ever upward.

You can feel the emotional and economic pressure increase with it.

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People were already tired, already anxious before the were looking at £100 to fill their petrol tank, and the pressure to do it before process go up again.

We are all noticing the difference every month in food, energy and general bills as well as petrol.

For many it isn’t something that can simply be absorbed. It is about survival.

I know I am fortunate and that my experience of hardship is not necessarily comparable to what is happening now.

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When the petrol light comes on, it's a reminder of the reality of life in 2022, write Christine Jardine. PIC: Adobe Stock.

Yet every time that petrol pump symbol lights up it feels like a reminder of how bleak things have become.

Just a few days ago the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predicted that next year the UK economy will not grow, but will instead stagnate on zero per cent growth.

In the developed world, only Russia’s economic situation will be comparable.

While that country can try to blame their malaise on the sanctions imposed for their criminal and inhumane invasion of Ukraine our government has nothing, not even that unacceptable excuse, to hide behind.

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The Government led by Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak has managed our economic recovery from the pandemic so badly that we will plunge from

being the second fastest growing economy in the G7 group of leading countries to the slowest.

Inflation is also expected to peak at 10 per cent at the end of this year by the most recent predictions.

While that might all just seem like high-falutin economist speak, most of us are already feeling the real impact in our pockets, our homes and those fuel tanks.

It is no picnic either for those who have already switched to electric or hybrid cars and are seeing the cost of charging them reflected in their energy bills.

And public transport is no answer at the moment either.

You are lucky if you can get a train in a timetable that the SNP/Green Government has cut by a third and our buses are becoming overloaded and stuck in the log-jam of omnipresent roadworks.

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Of course if you live in a rural area neither may be an option to start with, and that expensive car journey is unavoidable.

And while I may be one of the lucky ones just now there is not a conversation with a constituent or media interview that I do where I am not aware of how it could just as easily be me.

I don't often open-up about a difficult period just after my first political campaign ended in defeat.

When I took the decision to change career, we literally counted every penny.

It was tough, exhausting and at times embarrassing.

But worst of all it's frightening.

That was during the credit crunch and l all around me I could see families caught in the nightmare that crisis created and now seems much less frightening than where we are now.

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I remember walking the dog one afternoon and seeing that a house across the road had been repossessed.

I couldn't imagine what that family were going through. How bad it must have felt that they left their well maintained, desirable property with its immaculate garden without saying goodbye and having to face explanation.

I wondered how I would cope if it were my family.

It’s a thought I have frequently had over the past five years as an MP when I have been privileged to support my constituents through our crises and share the weight of the burden with them.

It is usually followed by frustration, always aimed at this government which seems so out of touch with what ordinary families and pensioners are facing.

When my car radio brought me the news the Prime Minister had decided to let people use housing benefits to pay the mortgage and for Housing Association tenants to have the right to buy their homes, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

Oh yes, that will solve the problems of parents going without food so their children can eat.

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According to the Office of National Statistics 46% of people in this country bought less food in the past two weeks.

Then there are the women, people with disabilities and parents of young children who are particularly concerned about their futures.

Or those facing the fear of a bitter winter when heating is too expensive to even contemplate switching on.

Those for whom walking has become the only affordable travel option, even in the most challenging Scottish weather.

I have no problem with people owning their property but right now that seems a world away from the priorities of so many families and pensioners.

The government will argue they are throwing money at the problem, but they are doing so in a way that grabs a headline but doesn’t take hold of the actual problem.

We need tax cuts for those who need and tax hikes for those who can shoulder the burden. Higher wages to keep up with inflation.

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Perhaps that illuminated symbol isn’t such a bad thing after all.

From now on, I’ll see it as a reminder of the reality of life in 2022 and a warning that it’s not just my car that is running on empty.



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