Church of Scotland General Assembly 2022: Kirk backs windfall tax on oil and gas companies

The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly has called on the UK Government to introduce a windfall tax on oil and gas companies in order to address the fuel poverty crisis.

And it also urged no further licences for new fossil fuel extraction in a bid to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Both proposals were put forward by the Rev Mike Goss from Angus, who argued urgent action was needed on both climate change. He told the Assembly: “We’re very close to the point where not doing anything more will mean it will be too late. We need to see changes that will help take forward targets to keep a safe limit on climate change. As part of that, we need to prevent fossil fuel extraction and exploration continuing to grow.”

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And he said a windfall tax was also needed urgently. “We need to recognise our energy industries have been doing extremely well out of the current crisis but fuel poverty is a reality for people in our communities, particularly for the poorest. The sheer scale of the money that is flowing into these energy companies is far beyond what they have anticipated while the poorest are being hurt by the bills they have to pay. A windfall tax is a means to redistribute these huge profits.”

Backing the call for a windfall tax, the Rev Emma McDonald from Dundee told of her work with a community food network. She said: “Poverty and especially fuel poverty impacts people not just with heating but also with eating. If you have no energy you cannot make meals, you cannot heat your home and your children will go hungry. We have people on a regular basis who come in and have absolutely no money and have children.”

But Nigel Hicks, an elder from Corstorphine, argued a windfall tax did not go far enough. He said it sounded great because it was attacking the “big nasty petrol and energy companies”, but it would raise £10 billion which was “peanuts” for the government. “Next year our energy prices will still be as high – how do you get it the second time round, the third time round? You need a wholesale change in tax policy. We have billionaires not paying their full rate of tax – that’s where you get the kind of money you need to address poverty in this country." He said the government would probably introduce a windfall tax “because it sounds good”. But he said: “It is insufficient to address the problems we have.”

Donald Macleod, a community worker on Lewis, said he was cautious about a windfall tax but wanted to see action over standing charges on electricity. “We should reduce or do away with these exorbitant, exploitative fixed standing charges which disadvantage the poorest.”

The Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Kirk’s Faith Impact Forum, said congregations had done a “phenomenal” job in setting up foodbanks and larders, clothes exchanges and lunch clubs, and offering financial advice during the pandemic. She said: “These initiatives are going to be needed even more in the coming months as it is anticipated that an estimated 1.5 million households across the UK, will face bills that exceed their income. This work the local church is doing is life-saving.”

The Rev Mike Goss speaks at the Assembly on fuel poverty and excess profits.

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