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by Stephen Flynn
12 August 2022
Truss and Sunak must stop pandering to the Tory right and grasp the scale of this crisis

The next leader of the Tory party will not be known until September. Credit: Alamy

Truss and Sunak must stop pandering to the Tory right and grasp the scale of this crisis

Well aren’t we the lucky ones? A prime minister who will build a wall between themselves and the first minister, or a prime minister who will have a Highland holiday in Darlington.

It’s little wonder that even Douglas Ross, renowned for his conviction by wanting to sack then back then sack Boris Johnson, has opted not to support either for the top job.

But whilst it’s easy to jest at the expense of the Tories, and there is plenty of material to work with, the reality of daily life on their watch is no laughing matter.

The cost-of-living crisis that has engulfed the poorest for months is on the brink of becoming a catastrophe as energy bills explode, inflation rockets and interest rates soar.

And on that biggest of issues, the candidates are dithering. So focused on pitching to their party ranks that they’ve forgotten that the public are watching too, and that they need solutions.

Whilst Sunak appears to have conceded that help will be required, his only policy to date is the removal of VAT on energy bills.

With bills expected to top £4,200 in just a matter of months that move will be about as beneficial as his previous flagship plan to take 5p off a litre of fuel.

Meantime, Truss can’t bring herself to utter anything beyond unfunded tax cuts. It’ll wash with her backers on the Tory right, but surely even she must realise that any money folk save on a tax bill is going straight on a gas bill. That’s before the inevitable impact on public services is even considered.

They both ultimately know that revenue is going to have to be raised to fund financial support, most likely by broadening the scope and scale of the windfall tax, but are simply too afraid to say it.

The reality is that providing support to the public is playing second fiddle to throwing carrots to party members. And those carrots don’t stop there.

We all know that energy price rises are primarily being driven by Putin’s savagery. Whilst that is well beyond the control of any prime minister, what it has exposed is a chronic lack of energy security. On that front the medium to long-term solution is obvious: double-down on renewables investment.

Yet we have Truss again playing to her audience on the Tory right by planning to scrap the green levies that help fund renewables projects whilst denouncing plans for more solar farms.

Not to be outdone, Sunak has spun away from backing onshore wind and, like Truss, appears to have drilled down on fracking as a solution.

Given that both were part of a government that opted not to fund the Acorn carbon-capture and storage project in the North East of Scotland their ambivalence towards net zero shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise.

However, the consequences of the decisions that they take now will reverberate long after they have left office. And that’s why we shouldn’t leave our energy future in their hands.

Scotland is obviously more than self-sufficient in hydrocarbons, and like our Norwegian friends we will continue to have a key role to play in the short and medium term in helping meet the energy demands of our friends and neighbours across the UK and Europe.

And as we forge an energy transition in the green heat of a renewables revolution – be that wind, wave, tidal or hydro – its bounty too can be used to shore up energy demand at home and benefit those who live beyond these shores. Just think of the skills, expertise, financial clout and export potential on offer if we can deliver clean, green hydrogen at scale.

It is vital to look to build such energy independence for tomorrow and not avert our eyes from that prize. But before then, the looming cost-of-living catastrophe of today must be addressed.

For that to happen both Truss and Sunak need to lift their gaze away from party members and instead focus on the brutal reality facing the public.

Stephen Flynn is MP for Aberdeen South

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