Hundreds of Falkirk residents paying astronomical prices for electrical heating are being forced into fuel poverty by Scottish Power, campaigners have said.
Earlier this year, the energy giant discovered residents in Slamannan, Avonbridge, California and Whitecross with wet electric heating systems installed in their properties were using three times the amount of energy than the national average.
This has resulted in some residents paying an excess of £100 per week for their heating and electricity, according to campaigners.
Falkirk Council has since agreed to replace the systems in more than 650 properties, but campaigners are concerned as villagers have another winter to get through.
Claire Mackie, who spearheads the Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages Campaign alongside Fiona Gordon, said: “Scottish Power have continuously not taken any accountability for what they’ve done to their customers. They’re forcing hundreds of people into fuel poverty.
“We face another winter of another price hike and further stress and distress for people. They really need to take some action now.
“They have the power to do something and we need them to make that change to help people give something back to the customers that are suffering at their hands”
In the past, the affected areas have relied on coal and electric storage heating but Falkirk Council has now committed to extending the mains gas supplies to these areas.
But villagers are worried how long this will take and many say they will need to choose between heating their homes or feeding their families this winter.
“I’m sick and tired of sitting with blankets on,” explained one resident.
“I’m disabled so I’m in the house 24/7. Something needs to be done. Scottish Power has got to listen. They gave us promises in December last year and nothing has happened.
“I’m putting blankets on me, duvet covers, hot water bottles, drinking as many hot drinks as I can to keep warm.”
A single mother added that she has been forced to live with her parents as skyrocketing prices mean she can no longer afford to heat her home.
“I’m a single parent with three kids currently having to stay with my parents because I just can’t afford to run my house, through the heating costs and they need to do something about it.”
Andrew Ward, CEO of Scottish Power told STV News the energy firm is committed to helping the residents get through the winter with the introduction of a range of measures.
He said: “We’re doing everything we can right now to try and help these customers and we’re trying to do it in the fairest way possible as well.
“For everybody’s benefit, as soon as the heating systems can be replaced the better. It really is going to benefit everybody.
“The reality is though I think it’ll take a little bit of time which I think is really unfortunate for everybody but we’re there, we’ll help as much as we can through this winter period.”
A spokesperson from Falkirk Council said: “Earlier this year, we formed an action plan to address a number of issues raised by tenants in off gas communities.
“Despite the current pandemic we have successfully completed all of the tasks and can now move on to a new phase which will deliver a programme of replacement heating in these areas.
“We have confirmed with Scottish Gas Networks our commitment to undertake the installations and we are now waiting on timeframes and a programme of work from SGN. An update will be provided to residents once we have this information.”