Danny Alexander ‘should have reformed power market’

Former Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander
Former Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander

An SNP MP claims Danny Alexander should have secured major reform of the electricity market while he was in office.

Ian Blackford spoke out after Mr Alexander suggested the Highlands were being “let down” by a Tory majority government and “impotent” Nationalist MPs in opposition.

Mr Alexander, former Inverness MP and chief secretary to the Treasury, was furious when the UK Government shelved a scheme he led to cut power bills in the north.

The chancellor announced in the March Budget that ministers would consult on a plan to reduce electricity prices for families in the area by an average £30 a year. But it is understood the consultation was not carried out and officials now intend to look at the issue as part of a regular review of a subsidy scheme instead.

Mr Alexander said yesterday that the Tory government was “burying” his work. But Mr Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, said Mr Alexander should have overhauled the system while he was in the Treasury.

“His comments are stunning,” he said. “Danny was chief secretary to the Treasury and had the opportunity to fundamentally deal with the injustice that people in the Highlands and islands suffer.”

The Highlands and islands, Grampian and Tayside pay the highest bills in the UK because of a regional system for distribution costs. A year ago, the P&J launched a campaign to end the “postcode lottery”, and has won the backing of energy giant SSE, leading politicians and powerful regulators.

However, the Department for Energy and Climate Change has refused to commit to changing the system. Asked whether it was carrying out the consultation and changes that were in the Budget, a DECC spokeswoman highlighted the existing Hydro Benefit Replacement Scheme.

“This year we have spent £57million to protect bill-payers in the north of Scotland from the high costs of distributing electricity,” she said. “We will be launching a public consultation at the end of this year to ensure our funding scheme provides the right amount of support for bill payers.”