Martin Whitfield MSP has called on the Scottish Government to take up Scottish Labour’s plans to expand the Winter Fuel Payment, after new figures revealed it could help some 9,778 people in East Lothian, and tens of thousands more across South Scotland..

Last week Scottish Labour called on the government to introduce a £70 winter fuel supplement for low-income pensioners and struggling families, as the cost of living crisis looms.

On October 1 the energy price cap rose by £139 – the largest increase since it was introduced in January 2019. In contrast, the rate of Winter Fuel Payment has been frozen since 2011. Campaign groups have warned that the rise in the cap and sky-high energy prices will lead to preventable deaths.

This comes as the UK furlough scheme is brought to an end and the Universal Credit Covid uplift scrapped, prompting fears of a cost of living crisis stretching household budgets past breaking point.

The Scottish Parliament has the power to take action to ​expand Winter Fuel Payments and alleviate fuel poverty, which affects an estimated 600,000 people across Scotland – but the SNP has delayed the devolution of the benefit for up to four years.

Now, Scottish Labour are urging the Scottish Government to use the powers it has to try and ensure no-one faces a choice between heating and eating this winter.

Commenting, Martin Whitfield MSP said:

“This winter too many Scots are facing fuel poverty as energy prices spiral out of control.

“The Scottish Parliament can make a difference here. We have the powers to ensure payments reflect the pressures on fuel poor households – but the SNP have delayed taking responsibility.

“No-one should have to face a choice between heating and eating this winter. That’s why Labour would give ​people struggling with fuel poverty £70 now to help them through the winter months. 

“In East Lothian this would help around 10,000 people, with thousands more benefiting across the South of Scotland. The winter months are fast approaching and we have a cost of living crisis escalating by the day – there is no time to waste.

“The SNP Government must back this policy now and start moving to get this money in people’s pockets.”