Nicola Sturgeon has said renationalising energy firms should be kept “on the table” to combat the deepening cost of living crisis.
Scotland’s first minister said the energy price cap rise, due to be announced on Friday, should not “be allowed to go ahead”, as she warned it would push families into “destitution and devastation”.
Sturgeon said the country faces a “looming disaster” with energy bills as she prepares to convene a summit of major energy suppliers Scottish Power, OVO Energy and E.ON next week.
The current price cap is set at £1,971 but is expected to reach £3,576 in October and will gradually rise to more than £4,000 by the new year before peaking at £6,000 by April.
Speaking on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, Sturgeon said: “This further increase in people’s energy bills can’t be allowed to go ahead because it is making it impossible for people to provide the basics for themselves and their families, but it is also continuing to fuel inflation, which, of course, is causing the problem in the first place.
“I want to make sure that the Scottish government, working with energy companies, other stakeholders in Scotland, that we are genuinely doing everything we can at our own hand to help here.”
The first minister said she wanted renationalisation to be kept on the table but warned that the Scottish government did not have the power to do this itself.
“I want us to come together to call on the UK government to take the action only it can take,” she said.
“There is a looming disaster that is already unfolding but it is going to get worse.
“This is going to cause destitution and devastation, this will cause loss of life if real action is not taken to stem this crisis.”
Sturgeon’s intervention echoes that of former prime minister Gordon Brown, who said energy firms that fail to bring prices down should be renationalised by the state.
Under Brown’s plan, the energy price cap would be scrapped and new, lower prices would be negotiated with the companies. Those who are not able to arrange lower prices should be bought into public ownership “as a last resort”.
Chris Philp, the former technology minister who is backing Liz Truss for the Tory leadership, criticized proposals to freeze the price cap as a way to ease pressure on struggling households.
“Obviously, there’s nothing for free in life,” he told Times Radio. “And if Labor are planning to freeze the price cap for an extended period that will ultimately have to be paid for probably in the form of higher taxes.”
Asked whether higher taxes on energy firms could fund a potential price cap freeze, Philp replied: “I don’t think it’s wholly going to be funded by energy companies because there isn’t enough efficient profit to do that.
“And of course, we have already introduced a windfall tax that amounts to 5 billion pounds a year on energy companies. That was two and a half times bigger than the windfall tax Labor had proposed a few weeks beforehand.”
He added: “What I think is most important is two things: firstly, to get through this winter, which the emergency budget will make sure we do.
“And secondly, put the country on the right footing in the medium term, which means firstly, lower taxes to promote growth, which I strongly believe in, because growth will ultimately increase wages and produce more tax yields, and to fund public services like health and education.”