UK

SNP to propose social tariff for energy, broadband and mobile bills – Swinney

The proposal will be funded by taxes and an ‘obligation’ on energy companies, the First Minister said.

John Swinney announced the proposal during a visit to Stornoway
John Swinney announced the proposal during a visit to Stornoway (Jane Barlow/PA)

The SNP will include a social tariff on energy, broadband and mobile bills in its manifesto this week, First Minister John Swinney has said.

The proposal will see those on low incomes, with disabilities and the elderly pay less on their bills, with the party suggesting they be cut in half.

Mr Swinney spoke to a crowd in Stornoway on the Western Isles on Monday where he unveiled the plan ahead of the SNP manifesto being published on Wednesday.

The proposal would be funded by a mixture of general taxation and “an obligation” the profits of energy companies, with the party claiming the cost would be about £7.8 billion for the present year.

The First Minister said that his party want to update entitlements “for the 21st century”.

“This community is wrestling with some of the highest levels of fuel poverty in our country, it is literally unbearable for people, despite the fact that this community is producing vast amounts of renewable energy,” the First Minister said.

“At the heart of our manifesto will be that commitment, that we will argue for a social tariff funded by general taxation and by the power companies which will reduce the costs for those who are vulnerable in our society and give them a material contribution to reducing the cost of living.”

But that should go further, he said.

“Today, none of us really can operate without connectivity, access to broadband, access to telecoms, so many public services are delivered by that mechanism as well.

“So we’re going to propose that the social tariff extends also to broadband and telecoms costs, so that people are liberated of the excessive burden and they’re able to access public services and their wider communication in society, because they have got a tariff that is appropriate for meeting their circumstances.”

Andrew Bartlett, the chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, welcomed the commitment.

“It is encouraging to see the need for a social energy tariff moving up the political agenda with just over two weeks until voters go to the polls,” he said.

“We believe it is the best way of fixing the UK’s broken energy market.

“In the wake of a winter which has once again seen millions of people struggling to afford to heat their homes, it is time for concrete action.”

But the Scottish Tory finance spokeswoman, Liz Smith, said: “The SNP have hiked taxes on ordinary Scots to the highest levels anywhere in the United Kingdom and it seems like they just want to keep driving them higher and higher.

“Everybody wants to see lower energy bills but the way to do that is not to make hardworking Scots pay more and hammer the North Sea oil and gas industry, which would put jobs at risk.

“This proposal for a half-priced tariff is a half-baked idea that might sound good on paper but, in reality, it would just see Scots paying even more in tax and do huge damage to our economy.”