Cost of Living Scotland: 'Targeted emergency response' needed to address energy bills crisis, says Scottish Parliament committee

An emergency response, on par with action taken during the pandemic, is needed to address the energy bills crisis, according to a Holyrood committee.

Dean Lockhart, convener of the Net Zero, Energy & Transport Committee at the Scottish Parliament.
Dean Lockhart, convener of the Net Zero, Energy & Transport Committee at the Scottish Parliament.

A report, published today by a Scottish Parliament committee, lays out findings following an inquiry into rising energy prices.

It comes as typical household energy bills are likely to rise above £3,000 a year this winter, industry sources have warned.

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All UK households will receive a £400 discount on their fuel bills, while people on benefits will get an additional £650.

However, despite this, there are significant concerns many people will be pushed into poverty as a result of the hike.

A national publicity campaign – similar to those used during the pandemic – is needed, the report states, so that everyone struggling with increasing fuel bills in Scotland looking for help can find it.

The findings, from Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy & Transport Committee, says the Scottish and UK Governments must provide more immediate, carefully targeted support.

It also calls for increased support and funding for those providing advice and advocacy at a local level.

Dean Lockhart, convener of the committee, said: “This is a crisis unfolding in real time and one which we are told threatens ‘a catastrophic loss of life’ if swift action is not taken.

“We recognise some of the actions taken by the UK and Scottish Governments even over the short period of our inquiry, but more can and must be done now and in a more targeted way to get help to those most in need.

"Over the medium to longer term, it is also clear that we need to escape dependence on volatile international energy markets and accelerate all our efforts to enable this.”

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The report highlights three areas where the Committee believe immediate action and targeted support for the most vulnerable could be improved.

These include additional financial help for households, better energy education and advice services and acceleration of programmes to retrofit and insulate homes.

It also says that medium and long-term plans and strategies must accelerate to reduce future exposure to volatile energy prices and help meet net zero targets.

The convener added: “For now, our message is clear, the Scottish Government must demonstrate a targeted emergency response to this crisis, on a par with action taken during the pandemic, to ensure the least well off are not vulnerable to death or serious ill-health due to rising energy costs and associated cost of living expenses.”

In the report, the Committee agrees with the Scottish Government on the need to take action through available welfare provisions.

However, it also asks them to set out how social security and other assistance will be targeted specifically at lower-paid families with young children, those with disabilities and health conditions, older people, and those identified as experiencing or at risk of experiencing fuel poverty.

The Committee also recommends that plans for a programme of home heating and insulation, towards which the Scottish Government has committed an investment of £1.8bn, be accelerated and targeted at those most in need.

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The Committee is writing separately to the Minister of State for the UK Government, Greg Hands MP, calling for similar urgent action in relation to matters for which he is responsible.

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