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STUC 2013 Perth

Public ownership needs to rise up political agenda to end fuel poverty

Willie Docherty

Willie Docherty
“ a balanced energy policy is better than putting all our eggs in one basket.”

Delegates condemned the fact that a million families in Scotland live in fuel poverty despite this being an energy rich nation. The STUC will back campaigns to eradicate fuel poverty and will campaign to bring energy supply and distribution back into public ownership.

UNISON Scotland’s Willie Docherty told congress that more than one in three households in Scotland are estimated to be in fuel poverty as a result of poor energy efficiency in their homes, low incomes and the high cost of fuel.

“For every 5% rise in energy prices as many as 2% of households in Scotland are pushed into fuel poverty,” said Willie, adding that despite some excellent fuel poverty programmes, the recent fuel price rises have undone nearly all the good work done.

He welcomed the package of measures from the Scottish Government to meet their statutory duty to end fuel poverty by 2016, but warned that these only partially reverse earlier spending cuts. He pointed to UNISON’s longstanding “Keeping Scotland Warm” Campaign which reflects members concerns that much more needs to be done, especially as welfare reform measures are likely to exacerbate fuel poverty in Scotland.

“UNISON Scotland totally rejects the idea that price competition alone is sufficient to assist those in greatest need. Instead it has exacerbated long-standing inequalities between low-income groups and more affluent customers,” added Willie.

He supported the call for public ownership to rise up the political agenda and pointed to Luton Labour MP, Kelvin Hopkin’s early day motion calling for the renationalisation of gas and electricity.
“His motion condemns the energy companies, over 50% of which are foreign owned, for exercising a powerful and malign influence over government energy policy” focussing on maximising profits rather than investment in energy conservation and renewables.

“Let’s tell the politicians that they should not be on the side of the greedy profiteering energy companies and instead support the millions of ordinary workers struggling to heat their homes properly.”

Willie also spoke later as Congress called for further investment by both the Scottish and the UK Government in renewables and energy efficiency strategies. He told delegates that UNISON Scotland strongly supports the emerging renewable industries and realistic targets and incentives for increased regeneration from renewable.

“However, this has to be as part of a balanced energy policy,” said Willie, warning that the Scottish Government’s target on renewable was challenging, and that “a balanced energy policy is better than putting all our eggs in one basket.”

17 April 2013

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