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Ross-shire MP set to meet UK government over energy crisis

By Scott Maclennan

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MP Jamie Stone.
MP Jamie Stone.

Highland MP Jamie Stone is set to meet with the government over rising energy costs after leading a debate on the cost of gas and electricity yesterday afternoon.

The veteran Liberal Democrat is due to meet with Business and Energy Minister Greg Hands. Earlier Mr Stone outlined how locals and businesses in the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross constituency he represents are suffering.

The price cap on energy bills is expected to rise by 45 per cent reaching £2000 a year – or £165 a month. Without Government intervention, this rise could take the total number of households in fuel poverty to six million UK-wide.

Remote rural areas of Scotland are currently experiencing fuel poverty rates of nine per cent while the extreme fuel poverty rate has hit 33 per cent – a total of 42 per cent of households. In the rest of Scotland the rate is 24 per cent.

Under pressure since the pandemic, businesses have been hit hard by the surge in costs with two north companies in different sectors reporting rises to energy bills of between 70 and 80 per cent.

Subsequently, Mr Hands has offered a meeting to discuss how to help businesses in the Far North survive the crippling energy costs.

"I welcome the Minister's offer to meet with open arms,” Mr Stone said.

“We're speedily running out of time on this, with the energy price cap expected to increase by 45 per cent in April this year, so it's important that the government intervenes urgently. This meeting is a good first step.

"The government has been presented with numerous recommendations on how to tackle this crisis. The ball is in their court. Fuel poverty is an unacceptable blight across our society.

“We are watching the nation plummet further into a fuel poverty crisis, and the government has no serious plans to tackle it nor grasp on the scale of an increasingly desperate situation.

"The government needs to get a grip of this crisis and we need serious action now. A one-off Robin Hood tax on the super-profits made by oil and gas firms would raise enough to support those who need it most, with more money to insulate houses, warm homes, and fight against sky-rocketing energy bills."

Andrew and Sandy Mackay, owners of the Caithness Collection hotels, are facing an annual increase in their electricity costs from £76,764 to £129,934 - a 70 per cent rise.

Mr Mackay said: "I was very honoured to be present at the emergency debate that my MP Jamie Stone had managed to organise, really impressed that our situation has been taken so seriously and been a catalyst to many MPs in channelling their constituents’ concerns to the Government.

"The scale of fuel poverty was really brought home to me as I sat in the chamber and listened to the debate and although the Government Minister didn’t give us all the answers we were hoping for to secure a meeting with the minister shows the influence that Mr Stone has achieved in this issue and will keep our hopes up of a satisfactory Government intervention in the situation."

Engineering firm JGC – which already has high energy consumption costs running into six figures – has been forced to sign up to an 80 per cent increase in costs from March 2022.

Will Campbell from the firm said: "The energy cost increases are now crippling certain business sectors with engineering as a high user particularly impacted.

“An energy cost resolution has to be found urgently to reduce and slow the cost increases necessary to fund the move to green energy.”

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