Joseph Mitchell reports from the first protest of the Power to the People campaign, and how it has helped expose divisions between energy corporations and the British government.
Scottish Power bosses have expressed alarm about the impact of price hikes, after their Glasgow headquarters were the site of a protest last week (14 August).
Shortly after the protest of hundreds, the corporation’s chief executive Keith Anderson, said: “People’s concern about how they’re going to make ends meet when the price cap goes up at the start of October is palpable, and turning to genuine fear.”
He has pleaded with the UK Government to double the support package that it put in place at the start of the year to combat energy price rises back in April. The statement came just days after Anderson and other energy chiefs met Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss their approach to rising energy prices. Power to the People – the campaign group that organised the protest, noted that Anderson’s words imply a tension between government and corporations over how to deal with the price hike.
PttP organiser and former MSP Frances Curran Tweeted: “Scottish Power boss calls for a price freeze. That’s a result. But the big 5 companies pay for it – not the people.”
The recently formed campaign held its first protest outside the headquarters demanding a freeze on energy bills, an end to late payment debts, and an end to pre-payment meters. It was attended by hundreds of protestors, and several organisations including the RMT, UNISON and the Strathclyde Student Union, with speeches from Labour Councillor Matt Kerr, Curran and many others.
The demonstration took place amid of summer of rising civil unrest across the country in reaction to spiralling costs and inflation. A lifting of the energy price cap is expected to take average annual bills to around £3,500, a cost which will simply be unaffordable for vast swathes of households in the UK.
At the protest, Matt Dobson told Conter: “We need to fight for the nationalisation of the energy companies and for the bills to be reduced and we need to take on these energy fat cats and this Tory government.”
He said he has had to cancel his pre-payment meter and shut off his gas adding that non-payment is a reality that needs to be organised on a mass basis. He added that it was down to local councils and the Scottish government to legislate so that energy companies like Scottish Gas cannot use debt collection agencies to go into people’s properties and install pre-payment meters.
Deborah Lewis told Conter: “People are going to die this winter. I know people who do home visits and they’ve seen households who haven’t got enough money to eat, and that is going to get worse and worse over the winter if we don’t do something about it.”
Another attendant of the protest told us: “The price rises are horrendous, most obviously for gas and electricity. These energy corporations are making obscene profits with the help of this corrupt Tory government. Surely these big corporations should be helping and supporting people rather than robbing them and making them starve to death.”
The consensus from the speeches at the demonstration couldn’t have been clearer. If we want to see a meaningful drop in energy prices, then we must move toward a system of energy renationalisation, and it is an idea gaining popularity. Over 100,000 people have put names to a petition that calls for the nationalisation of the UK’s energy assets and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has called for a “pragmatic reshaping” of the market. However, this demand has not been reflected within the political leadership of Labour or the SNP who have stopped short of backing this demand.
Further demonstrations are expected to take place in the coming months as we draw closer to a winter of energy discontent.