The Scottish government is working hand in glove with the Conservatives in opposing measures to reduce the cost of energy bills.
Since the founding of the Better Together Campaign, the SNP has persistently taunted Labour for having got into bed with the Conservatives. When it comes to the cost of living, however, it seems the Scottish government is working hand in glove with the Conservatives in opposing measures to reduce the cost of energy bills for hard pressed families.
Questioned yesterday by Labour’s shadow finance secretary Iain Gray at Holyrood about whether the Scottish government would adopt a similar policy on energy prices as that announced by Ed Miliband, Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing took the side of the big energy firms.
Adopting similar heated rhetoric to that used by David Cameron et al, the minister declared during question time in the Scottish parliament:
“The record of regulators in the UK when one considers regulation of banking, the railway or payday loans isn’t one to boast about,” Mr Ewing said.
“Consumer experts have said that before this freeze comes in, the companies will whack the prices sky-high and companies may put off decisions to invest in new cleaner generation capacity.
“The industry, SSE and ScottishPower have said smaller companies would face insolvency and bigger companies would have to consider energy use and jobs.
“An arbitrary price freeze has been tried before in California in 2000, which led to blackouts and an increase in the wholesale price of 800 per cent.”
Leaving little room for doubt about where he stands, Ewing continued;
“As far as I can recall, never has a measure introduced by the leader of a major political party in the UK received such widespread, utter and total condemnation as being completely unworkable.”
His comments stand in contrast with those of his ministerial colleague, the Youth Employment minister Angela Constance, who has argued that Miliband’s energy price plan is “very well intended”. Polling conducted by YouGov for the Sunday Times last week found that 72 per cent of Scots support Labour’s energy price cap for 20 months.
Expressing his sadness that the SNP has opted to take the side of the big energy firms rather than hard pressed families, Iain Gray responded:
“I welcome the fact that the Scottish government has finally ended its silence on this key issue and picked a side. Sadly, the SNP has chosen the side of the big energy firms over hard-pressed families being hit with growing energy bills.
“Ed Miliband’s plan to freeze energy bills and reform the energy market was welcomed by families who will be dismayed that the SNP government has failed to match this pledge.
“Not only are the SNP refusing to support a price freeze, they have set their face against a regulator with the power to control prices in the long run.”
Addressing the wider implications on energy supplies and regulation if Scotland voted for independent, Gray continued:
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“Fergus Ewing spoke today for the energy companies and against the Scottish consumer. Fergus Ewing’s answer also means that the SNP plan to break up the single integrated British energy market.
“That means the costs of supporting renewable electricity and new grid infrastructure may well end up on Scottish bills instead of being shared across the whole of Britain. This is a double whammy in their energy bills for Scottish families.
“The message is clear – a Yes vote in the referendum is a vote for higher energy prices, and for an SNP on the side of big business not the consumer.”