East Lothian Courier – 2 February 2023


It was a pleasure to attend the Burns Supper at Haddington Burns Club. As with so many other events Covid had brought them to a halt. But they’re important for the community, as well as for the members. The towns links to the Bard through his mother, brother and a sister also give it further status. So much of life in these past years has been like living in a silo. But we live as a community and the social interactions vital.

Last week in Parliament I raised the issue of self-disconnections. That’s the euphemism for simply being unable to afford to access heat or power. The word disguises the misery it causes and it’s fallacious to suggest its self-imposed. Instead it comes about as people simply don’t have the cash to buy it, are worried about the further debt that will pile up if they do or simply have had to eat or feed the kids and that’s where the money went.

The numbers I uncovered in an earlier question are staggering. In quarter three of last year 66,000 households and 660,000 across Britain had self-disconnected from smart meters. But the figures will now be far higher as that was the quarter before prices further rose and winter kicked in.

Moreover, that’s only the tip of the iceberg as those figures relate only to smart meters. Just under 300,000 households in Scotland and just over 2 million in Britain are on what’s called legacy pre-payment meters (PPMs). That’s those fed by coins, cards or topped up directly in some other way. They include those poorest and most vulnerable who’ve been struggling and were already fuel poor long before prices rocketed.

I demanded that the forced installation of pre-payment meters that’s been ongoing and that the higher standing charges perversely imposed on those with PPMs should end. All that’s required’ s a direction by Ministers to OFGEM but that was rejected. I also demanded a social tariff for the poorest and most vulnerable but that’s having to wait. This is conscious cruelty at the height of a cold winter.