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by Sofia Villegas
17 October 2023
Scottish independence would end “disfunction” in energy market, Dave Doogan says

Holyrood's fringe event on restoring consumer trust in energy markets for a just transition | Andrew Perry

Scottish independence would end “disfunction” in energy market, Dave Doogan says

SNP Westminster spokesperson for energy security and net zero, Dave Doogan, has said Scotland's energy industry could not be "any worse" and claims independence would rip ties with “historical legacy dysfunction”.

Speaking at a Holyrood fringe event at the SNP conference in partnership with Trust Alliance Group on restoring consumer trust in energy markets, the MP also said people are getting "ripped off" by energy standing charges.

He said an independent Scotland would be "very export-focused", with a focus on renewable energy and investment "in the long term rather than for the short term". He said: "It would put the well-being and welfare of the people who live here at its core. It wouldn't be at the mercy of the markets and it wouldn't be at the mercy of its historical legacy dysfunction, whether it's convenient or otherwise.

"So, I have every confidence that we will be in a far better position with energy and much else after independence. And when our comparator is where we are currently within the UK, we certainly couldn't make it any worse."

Last year, household energy bills increased by an average of 96 per cent for natural gas, with electricity bills surging by over 50 per cent.

Doogan said the system is “deeply flawed” as users find bills hard to understand because the industry's language is "impenetrable": "I don't think that people believe that that energy company is some sort of fly-by-night organisation. I think where their confidence is totally lacking is in a deeply flawed, intensely complex, multi-layered, lumbering energy system and market in the United Kingdom. For most ordinary domestic consumers, the language of energy is entirely impenetrable. And the way that your bill is set out is unfathomable to the extent that they probably don't even try to figure out what their bill is.

“And trying to relate what is on your bill, to how you use and consume energy for most people is just a nonstarter. That's not to patronise ordinary people, it’s a recognition of a system that doesn't work.

"People think they are getting ripped off, certainly by the standing charge, and I'm inclined to agree with them."

With the winter months around the corner, Morgan Vine, head of UK policy and influencing at the charity Independent Age said that energy costs are now "a matter of life or death" as people cannot afford to turn on the gas or switch on the heating to cook or stay warm.

She said: “If you are not eating, if you're not living in a warm home, any health condition - heart, diabetes, arthritis - is going to be worse. And many of us will now be well aware that, more people die in the colder months. So we're really concerned that this is a matter of life and death."

When discussing policy reforms, Doogan said the "politically questionable" rollback in net zero plans by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had damaged investment for change and added that as long as there is an unstable government, we will not see a "watershed" improvement.

He said: "We're not going to get the change that we want to see from this government. So we're going to have another 12 months of a hiatus in policy. 

"We then had a prime minister rowing back, in the most politically questionable terms, net zero commitments and causing massive damage to business confidence investment and consumer confidence as well. 

"These are big financial decisions that consumers will have to make if they want to adjust how they consume and benefit from energy and you need to feel like you're in a stable regulatory regime to make those investments and nobody feels that. So the idea that we're going to get some sort of watershed, vast improvement into the way that the system is operated is just not going to happen."

Asked about charges for generators to connect to the grid, the MP accused the UK Government of hiding behind Ofgem as he argued the current "legacy regime" was "grossly unfair" and a literal "disgrace": "Connection charges for generators are grossly unfair. It is based on how far your generation is from the consumers that are demanding that generation. A legacy regime from when the UK was powered by a couple of dozen massive coal and nuclear power stations. Now, we have a much more granular generation network right across the UK and then applying the same regime which is blatantly unjust.

"At the end of the day, the government is responsible for having a regulatory framework where the regulator operates in the interests of the consumers in real terms, yet it often thinks it operates in the interests of consumers in abstract terms. And some of that is so abstract as the tenure charges, which are literally a disgrace."

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