Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Power to the People

It will have come as no surprise to anyone following the great British energy swindle that the third of our big six energy companies has just announced another 18% rise in the price of gas and electricity.
Scottish and Southern Electric [SSE], formerly known as Scottish Hydro, has followed Scottish Power and British Gas in increasing charges by almost 4 times the rate of inflation for its 9 million UK customers. The company blamed the rising cost of gas on world markets for their decision. However, unlike the previous two companies they also took a swipe at Government legislation which forces them to contribute towards fuel poverty initiatives like the 'Warm Home Fund' blaming such 'mandatory environmental and social schemes' for eating into their profits. Heaven forfend anyone poor should get in the way of SSE's record profits, up 50 % in the past 5 years to £1.3bn or the £8m bonuses paid to its top four Executives for that matter!
No wonder public contempt for the energy companies is now at such unprecedented levels!
These companies have forced more than 10 million families in Britain into fuel poverty and have done so with undisguised contempt. SSE, for example have just been found guilty at Guildford Crown Court of using illegal sales methods to mislead people about their price tariffs in a concerted effort to win 'vulnerable' customers away from other suppliers. In a move only matched in its rapidity by Murdoch's decision to close down the News of the World, SSE wound up its sales division with the loss of 900 jobs before the full implications of this particular 'Pandora's box' could be fully inspected.
Scottish Power's charges go up 18% from August 1st. British Gas and SSE have announced similar rises. It is only be a matter of days now before Eon, EDF and Npower each make the same announcement and force millions more hard pressed families into fuel poverty in Britain.
This situation makes a mockery of the free market and privatised power as the price of essentials like gas and electricity rises beyond the reach of millions of families. And perhaps the craziest news yet is that UK investment in gas fired power stations is at record levels as the so called 'diversified energy policy' with its 'basket of energy sources' is rendered useless by the continued and prolonged 'dash for gas'. The answer to this increasingly brutal situation is of course to invest not in gas but in renewables and for the entire energy industry to be brought back into public hands. But that won't happen under the Tories, Labour or the SNP who persist with an energy policy based on greed not need.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Fuel Poverty Worsens As Prices Rise

Scottish Power's 19% hike in gas and electricity charges last month has now been followed by British Gas's 18% increase this month. The other four energy companies - EDF, Eon, Scottish and Southern and NPower - are widely expected to announce similar increases soon.

Perhaps the energy companies or the Government can explain how people are supposed to pay these exorbitant bills when wages have not gone up, benefits have not gone up and pensions have not gone up?

According to Edinburgh Council figures, half the pensioners in this city are now experiencing fuel poverty [i.e. spending 10% of their income on this bill] and there are one million households in Scotland living in such dire circumstances. And with the SNP Government cutting £20m from fuel poverty programmes and the CON-DEM coalition at Westminster reducing the winter fuel payment by 25% this shameful situation is unlikely to improve any time soon.

First Minister Alex Salmond promised to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland by 2015. He is now further away from his goal than ever.As someone who campaigns on this issue regularly on the streets of Edinburgh I can report that people are absolutely furious at this situation. It is time the Government intervened to ensure bills are capped and to diversify away from burning fossil fuels as part of an affordable and sustainable energy policy.

[Letter published in the Edinburgh Evening News 12 July 2011]

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Edinburgh People's Festival Programme Unveiled

The Edinburgh People’s Festival today unveiled our August 2011 programme which has a mixture of history, music, poetry, literature, lectures and comedy.

We are delighted to present this our ninth annual Edinburgh People’s Festival which runs from Sunday 7th to Friday 12th August. Our shows this year contain a mixture of old favourites and new attractions. We have for example another chance to join our popular walking tour of Edinburgh’s radical past taking in those sites in the city not covered by the tourist board. And we again pay tribute to the legendary Hamish Henderson, poet, essayist, folk singer songwriter, intellectual and activist who founded the People’s Festival back in 1951.

As well as those regular features we also present several new shows. We have music from the city’s Spanish community courtesy of ‘Gallo Rojo’ to celebrate protest songs and their spirit of resistance. We gather in the Scottish Poetry Library to conflate poetry and humour in an evening in memory of William McGonagall ‘the worlds worst poet’ who although long associated with Dundee was born here and is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard.

For John Rebus fans we have a literary tour of those landmarks made famous by Ian Rankin’s fictional detective and finally as our ‘grand finale’ we present an un-missable comedy night in Gorgie with 5 of the funniest comics in the city at prices to make everyone laugh.

Most shows are, as usual, absolutely free. And we thank the city’s trades union movement for its ongoing and generous support for making this possible.

Full details of all the shows in this years programme and how to get tickets are available at The EPF website -