South Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper has highlighted the support the Scottish Government have put in place to help tackle the current cost of living crisis. Ms Harper has also called on the UK Government to take practical and tangible actions to support those most in need, given that energy policy is reserved to the UK Parliament.

The South Scotland MSP has welcomed that support is being expanded, by the Scottish Government, to improve the energy efficiency of homes and tackle energy costs. In response to the cost of living crisis, three key Scottish Government energy efficiency and heat programmes will be boosted from April. These include:

• Expanding the Home Energy Scotland (HES) advice service, which provides free, impartial advice available to all households in Scotland on making homes warmer, greener and easier to heat. Capacity will be increased by 20% to support an extra 12,000 households a year, whilst a service offering bespoke advice to the most vulnerable households will be doubled.

• Widening the eligibility criteria of the Scottish Government’s flagship Warmer Homes Scotland fuel poverty programme to include more groups within the 60 – 75 years age range.

• Increasing the level of funding individual fuel poor households could benefit from through the local authority-led Area Based Schemes.

Ms Harper has also welcomed that more than £160 million of funding is being invested this year to help make Scotland’s homes and buildings warmer and more efficient, supporting efforts to tackle fuel poverty whilst helping householders manage their energy bills and reduce carbon emissions.

However, Ms Harper has also said that there is “no excuse for inaction” from the Chancellor – warning the cost of living crisis has been ”a decade in the making” with rising costs compounded by damaging decisions at Westminster including Tory austerity cuts, Brexit and a dismal failure to invest in renewable energy.

The South Scotland MSP has also joined calls for the regressive National Insurance tax hike and the £1040 cut to Universal Credit to be reversed, matching the Scottish Child Payment UK-wide, and introducing a Real Living Wage to boost incomes to be implemented urgently.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“Everyone needs a safe, warm place to call home. I am acutely aware that soaring energy prices will be causing many people to worry about the cost of their fuel bills and it is vital that people struggling with energy bills get the support they need. Particularly across rural areas like Dumfries & Galloway the rising fuel costs are causing a huge issue as many people are reliant on their cars to get to work, for amenities and to see friends and family.

“I welcome that the Scottish Government are using all powers and resources it has to support people through the cost of living crisis and the Scottish Budget last month included a package of measures to provide immediate help with rising bills. At the same time, powers relating to energy markets remain reserved to the UK Government.

“The cost of living crisis has been a decade in the making, with rising costs compounded by damaging Westminster decisions over Brexit, Tory austerity cuts and a failure to invest in renewable energy. Instead of preparing a list of excuses, the Chancellor should be preparing a comprehensive package of support – scrapping the regressive National Insurance tax hike, reversing the £1040 cuts to Universal Credit, matching the Scottish Child Payment UK-wide, and introducing a Real Living Wage to boost incomes.

“I encourage anyone struggling with their household bills to contact me at any time for advice and support. I am also in direct contact with food banks across the region and am supporting them to provide supplies to those most requiring them.”