Energy price cap: Surely we should expect more from politicians around crisis?

It was unexpected to even be more disappointed in how politicians act following the dual crises of the Alex Salmond inquiry and the defenestration of Boris Johnson, but somehow that is the reality we find ourselves in.

The world of politics reacted as if the 80 per cent increase in the basic price of energy had not been trailed for months since essentially the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

The average household will now pay around £3,549, more than double the average bill at this time last year and just the latest section of the fuse lighting an financial and economic disaster that is yet to truly bite household incomes.

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Ofgem has assured Scottish Government no blackouts will happen this winter, acco...
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A reminder – the price cap is a misnomer as ultimately your usage determines how much you pay.

The difference is instead in the baseline rate for using one unit of energy and how much you pay to for a supply before you use a kilowatt.

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If you are unlucky enough to need constant heating or to power high-usage electrical equipment to keep yourself alive and are on a below-average salary, you may face the choice between paying sky-high bills or eating this winter.

This is a life or death crisis, and yet our politicians appear disastrously absent from the wheel.

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Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against rising energy prices outside Ofgem's headquarters in Canary Wharf. Picture: Rob Pinney/Getty Images

You would think the prospect of a significant drop in disposable income and a spike in wholesale energy prices – both of which threaten the ongoing existence of thousands of businesses – may have sparked action.

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But there appears to be no appetite from those in charge to respond to what will be an unprecedented and disastrous economic shock with the same required urgency as the Covid pandemic demanded.

Even the SNP, so good at pointing at the rosy future in an independent Scotland, have no answers.

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Asked for what the policy response from an independent Scotland would be to the ongoing energy price hikes, the Scottish Government referred this newspaper to one line in a BBC World at One interview with net zero secretary Michael Matheson.

In it, the minister, having been asked about the SNP’s ditched public energy company plan, said: “One of the things that we would like to do in Scotland, certainly in an independent Scotland, is to have a level of state control around some aspects of energy production, which would allow us to manage these things in a much more effective way.”

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We were also referred to a press release that spoke of the “necessary policy levers” being in the hands of the UK Government.

One might ask how the Scottish Government would know they are necessary if they don’t know what they would do with them.

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The Conservative Party are engaged in a never-ending, narcissistic exercise of navel-gazing while the nicknamed ‘Zombie government’ – which couldn’t get a minister to speak to broadcasters on Friday morning – trundles on from Chequers.

At least the Labour Party have developed a policy, one mimicked with a slant by both the Liberal Democrats (who developed the policy first) and the SNP (who jumped on the bandwagon) of ‘freeze energy bills now’, but criticised as poorly targeted and not going far enough to help the poorest.

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The facts are these: if politicians do not respond adequately, people will die. Surely we deserve better than this?

The sixth and final episode of the brand new limited series podcast, How to be an independent country: Scotland’s Choices, is out now.

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It is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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