A number of my constituents in the Wyndford estate have been disconnected from their community hot water and heating supply by Scottish and Southern Energy. That has happened for various reasons, but several people are struggling with debt and bills. One constituent, a lone parent, has been staying with friends because her house is so cold. She has offered £600 towards clearing her debts, but SSE has previously insisted that she clears 50 per cent of her debts, alongside a £272 reconnection charge. After some pushing, SSE might—might—now show some flexibility about reconnecting her.
As we enter the Christmas period, will the First Minister urge SSE and other providers to be as flexible as possible, to show some compassion and to do what they can to help, not punish, those who are struggling to heat their homes?
I thank Bob Doris for raising an important issue. I am always very concerned to hear of any disconnections, especially at this time of year, when temperatures are low.
The Government will always prioritise tackling fuel poverty, and we offer assistance to households through our funding for home energy Scotland. The Scottish Government is also preparing to bring forward regulations for heat networks in Scotland. We have had positive discussions with the UK Government to consider how provisions in reserved areas, such as consumer protection, can be implemented in Scotland.
In response to Bob Doris’s specific question, I would call upon SSE and all energy suppliers to be as flexible as possible and fair and compassionate in dealing with any customers who are struggling to pay their fuel bills. The most important priority for any of us should be to ensure that people have heat and are warm during the winter.