By Bill Heaney

The nights are fair drawing in. It’s windy, damp and cold out there in Dumbarton and Clydeside.

Universal Credit is being withdrawn, lockdown furlough arrangements are coming to an end and bank accounts – for those lucky enough to have one in SNP-run Scotland – are in the red.

Christmas is just around the corner and the price of gas has increased fivefold in almost the same number of months.

Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton Constituency, has backed Scottish Labour calls for an immediate £70 supplement to the Winter Fuel Payment for struggling pensioners.

This comes as Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader, has made demands that the SNP ‘take responsibility’ for the looming energy  crisis and outline how the Scottish Government could help those most in need.

The announcement comes after it was revealed that a woman in her 90s starved to death – demonstrating the tremendous strain facing pensioners, and Scotland’s health and social care services.

It was the first fatality from lack of food recorded in Scotland for at least 20 years.

The energy price cap will increase by £139 from £1,138 to £1277 on October 1 this year.

For the 150,000 Scottish pensioners living in poverty, the change could force them deeper into desperation.

The Scottish Parliament has the power to take action to raise Winter Fuel Payments and alleviate pensioner fuel poverty.

But the SNP has delayed the devolution of the benefit from the Department of Work and Pensions for up to FOUR years.

Labour leader Anas Sarwar, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and MSP Jackie Baillie.

Now, Scottish Labour have called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to provide a £70 supplement to low-income pensioners.

The payment would help mitigate against the immediate pressures they are facing on their fuel bills heading into the colder months.

The Winter Fuel Payment ‑ currently worth between £100 and £300 to pensioners – has been frozen since 2011.

The value of this lifeline benefit for many struggling pensioners has been eroded by inflation and rising fuel costs, leaving many facing impossible financial choices this winter.

Pensioner campaign groups have warned that the energy price rise and sky-high energy prices will lead to preventable deaths.

Jackie Baillie MSP said:  “I fully support the demands of Anas Sarwar to make the SNP take responsibility for addressing the crisis before us and providing help to those most in need.

“This winter too many people, both in our local community and across Scotland, are facing fuel poverty as energy prices spiral out of control.

“In Scotland, 150,000 pensioners live in relative poverty every year – with thousands more on the brink.

“The Scottish Parliament has the power to make winter payments reflect the pressures on fuel poor households, but the SNP have delayed taking responsibility.

“That is why we would give every pensioner on the lowest incomes £70 now to help them through the winter months.

“Where the SNP obsess over mandates and white papers, the powers of the Scottish Parliament could be used to end the choice between heating and eating this winter.”

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