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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 November, 2003, 16:34 GMT
Energy firms urged to cut prices
Electricity metre
Prices for electricity can be up to 12% higher in Scotland
Power companies have been urged by the Scottish Executive to cut their prices for electricity and gas to reduce the problem of fuel poverty.

Communities Minister Margaret Curran said Scottish consumers could pay on average up to 12% more for electricity than householders in England.

Ms Curran told MSPs it was unacceptable for people to have to choose between heating and eating.

In a debate in the Scottish Parliament, she said that while the executive was succeeding in its efforts to reduce fuel poverty, it could not do it alone.

Fuel poor

Ms Curran called on the three biggest energy companies to slash their prices in a bid to further tackle the problem.

She said: "Lowering the price of electricity would no doubt benefit the fuel poor, especially those not linked to the gas grid.

"I call on the companies to lower their prices and bring Scottish gas customers in line with those of customers south of the border."

The debate came less than a week after a report revealed that the number of Scots households living in fuel poverty had halved in the past six years.

The executive has pledged to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 and to ensure that 30% of the 369,000 homes still suffering from fuel poverty are lifted out of that position by 2006.

We cannot tolerate fuel poverty in 21st century Scotland
Margaret Curran

Among the schemes run by the executive is the central heating programme, which ensures that anyone over 60 is entitled to have it installed free of charge.

Ministers have also established a warm deal scheme which provides insulation grants for low-income households and pensioners.

Ms Curran told MSPs she was confident the executive would meet its targets.

She said: "We cannot tolerate fuel poverty in 21st century Scotland.

"It is unacceptable for people to have to choose between heating and eating.

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