Independent body should investigate ministers, report finds

Lawyer Laura Dunlop found that a separate body – rather than Government civil servants – should look into claims of harassment against ministers.

A review of the government’s harassment complaints procedure has been published after Alex Salmond successful challenged its use to investigate him. Andrew Milligan/PA via PA Wire
A review of the government’s harassment complaints procedure has been published after Alex Salmond successful challenged its use to investigate him.

A review into the complaints procedure for claims of harassment by current or former ministers has called for allegations to be investigated independently, rather than by the Scottish Government.

The report by Laura Dunlop QC was commissioned after the Government’s investigation of sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond was found to be unlawful.

Ms Dunlop makes a range of recommendations about how complaints against current and former Government ministers should be handled, including allowing complainers to refuse police involvement and for claims to be investigated by an independent body, rather than Government civil servants.

Referring to the revelation that Judith Mackinnon, the woman tasked with conducting the investigation into Salmond, had previously contacted the complainers before her appointment to the role, Ms Dunlop said anyone investigating a claim must be “free of prior involvement with any aspect of the matter being raised”.

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“It is clear that the investigating officer’s involvement with the complainers’ side of the process was considered to have been too close to be considered fair,” Ms Dunlop states.

She added: “My suggestion would be a requirement that anyone involved in factual investigation, and/or preparation of a report, should have had no prior involvement with any aspect of the matter being raised, and should have no close association with either party before or during the investigation.”

On the issue of independently investigating complaints, Ms Dunlop states: “The risks of perception of bias, either in favour of or against the person complained about, are obvious.

“Moreover, there is a specific issue of accountability inherent in any process which involves civil servants in investigating such complaints.”

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Her recommendation is that formal complaints against former ministers should be “investigated and adjudicated” independently, and suggests that it could be done either by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland, or the Independent Advisers on the Ministerial Code.

The Holyrood inquiry into the government’s botched investigation of the former first minister also heard evidence that the two complainers had not wanted their case passed to the Crown Office and police, but that the Scottish Government decided to do so regardless.

Ms Dunlop notes that the current policy, which remains in place despite Mr Salmond’s successful legal challenge, gives “no indication that person’s wish not to involve the police may in some situations be respected”.

She, instead, suggests the Government give consideration to allow any complainer to avoid police involvement if that is what they want.

Another recommendation is for there to be no time limit for complaints of a sexual nature, but other harassment complaints would have to be reported within three years – albeit with an “override position” if there is deemed to be a public interest in pursuing a historic case.

Ms Dunlop, who is Procurator to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, also suggests that the Government should adopt a “process of censure with consent” used by the church, which would require a minister to formally accept they have behaved inappropriately.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the Government would consider the recommendations for strengthening the process for handling harassment complaints, alongside the anticipated report from the Committee on the Scottish Government’s Handling of Harassment Complaints (SGHHC) and James Hamilton’s inquiry into whether Nicola Sturgeon breached the ministerial code.

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He said: “The Scottish Government welcomes this independent review and the constructive, forward-looking recommendations that Laura Dunlop QC has made.

“We will now work with the Scottish Government Council of Unions, on how these could be implemented, noting that in some instances it will require us working across institutions to find a way forward.

“Our shared priority is to have in place policies and procedures that allow any future complaints to be raised and investigated with confidence. I would reiterate the Scottish Government’s apology to the women who had the courage to make the harassment complaints. They were let down, and it is only right to ensure that lessons are learned for the future.

“Bullying or harassment of any kind is unacceptable and we want staff to feel safe and supported in raising concerns.

“We will finalise an implementation plan by June which draws on the lessons highlighted by this review, as well as the forthcoming report from SGHHC Committee.

“I am grateful for the attention Laura Dunlop has given to these important matters.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “It’s clear why the SNP government tried to bury this review late in the day after a lockdown easing statement.

“They have tried to shut down scrutiny throughout this affair and today they sneaked out a report that lays bare 10 glaring flaws in the way the SNP government handles sexual harassment complaints.

“They completely failed the women at the heart of this scandal by using a catastrophically-flawed procedure to investigate Alex Salmond.”


Holidaymaker dies in Crete after rescuing grandsons from sea

The UK Foreign Office told STV News it was supporting the family.

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It is understood the 61-year-old was on holiday in Crete with family.

A Scottish man has died after rescuing his two grandsons from the sea off the coast of a Greek island.

It is understood the 61-year-old was on holiday in Crete with family when two boys got into trouble in the water near Gouves, a resort east of Heraklion.

The grandfather was able to save the two children before getting into difficulty himself.

The UK Foreign Office told STV News it was supporting the family of a British man who had died in Crete and was in contact with the Greek authorities.

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The Cretapost website reported life jackets were thrown into the water to assist the man.

A local worker said: “We tried to pull him ashore but the currents were very strong and we could not.”

More to follow.


Man charged with murdering Conservative MP David Amess

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, has also been charged with preparing terrorist acts, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

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Sir David Amess: A man has been charged with murder.

A man has been charged with murdering the Conservative MP Sir David Amess.

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, has also been charged with preparing terrorist acts, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

He is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday afternoon.

Sir David, the MP for Southend West, was fatally stabbed on Friday during a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.

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In a statement, Nick Price, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The CPS has authorised charges against Ali Harbi Ali for the murder of MP Sir David Amess on Friday October 15, 2021.

“We will submit to the court that this murder has a terrorist connection, namely that it had both religious and ideological motivations.

“He has also been charged with the preparation of terrorist acts. This follows a review of the evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police in its investigation.

“The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Mr Ali are active and that he has a right to a fair trial.”


Clarkston Disaster: ‘The shops were blown to bits’

50th anniversary of the day 22 people were killed when a gas explosion ripped through a row of shops.

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Engineers were trying to find a gas leak when an explosion ripped through a row of shops at Clarkston Toll shortly before 3pm on October 21, 1971.

Twenty-two people – 20 women and two men – were killed as ten shops were blown out and vehicles plunged into the debris from a rooftop car park.

More than 100 others were hurt, including some who were rescued hours later as emergency workers and good samaritans dug desperately through the rubble.

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Vehicles plunged from the rooftop car park into the shops following the blast.

Most of the victims were customers and shop workers, and even though many of them had already complained that week about a smell of gas, no-one was held responsible for the blast.

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The victims of the Clarkston Disaster will be remembered during a 50th anniversary memorial service in the East Renfrewshire town on Thursday afternoon.

‘Shortly after that, it blew up’

Ted Flannigan’s life was saved by chance – he went into a restaurant in Clarkston for something to eat, but changed his mind and left the scene just minutes before the explosion.

“By almost a whim, I saved my own life,” the 75-year-old told STV News as he returned to the scene half a century later.

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“I came out of a restaurant and drove up the road a little bit – shortly after that, it blew up.

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Two passengers were killed after getting off this bus just before the explosion.

“The roof had come down, crashed through the shops, the front and back of the shops were blown to bits and poor people who were either shopping or working lost their lives.

“As an engineer, I’ve seen various things in my life, but nothing quite as horrendous as this.

“I spent three nights working there, trying to do anything that I could do. People were all mucking in, everybody was trying to help.”

What happened in Clarkston?

Shopworkers had reported a smell of gas in the six-year-old shopping centre on Busby Road, but engineers were unable to find out where it was coming from.

Unbeknown to them, gas was actually leaking through a crack in a pipe three feet below the road surface into empty, unventilated cellars beneath the shops.

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Engineers were still on the scene when the gas was ignited by a spark, causing an explosion so fierce that it killed two people who had just got off a bus – and injured passengers still in their seats.

A fatal accident inquiry reached its conclusions within just four months of the explosion, a jury deciding that no one was to blame.

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This car was left covered in rubble following the blast.

Remembering the victims

A special 50th anniversary service will take place for victims’ families and survivors on Thursday at the memorial tree in the Clarkston Halls car park.

There will also be a minute’s silence across East Renfrewshire at 2.50pm.

The full story of the Clarkston Disaster was also told in an episode of The People’s History Show, which is available on the STV Player.


Vaccines ‘90% effective’ at preventing deaths from Delta variant

The data, released by the University of Edinburgh, was gathered using a Scotland-wide Covid surveillance tool.

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The study is the first to show across an entire country how effective vaccines are at preventing death from the Delta variant.

Vaccination is 90% effective at preventing deaths from the Delta variant of Covid-19, according to research.

The data, released by the University of Edinburgh, was gathered using a Scotland-wide Covid surveillance tool.

Figures show the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 90% effective and the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab 91% effective in preventing deaths in people who have been double vaccinated but who have tested positive for coronavirus in the community.

The study is the first to show across an entire country how effective vaccines are at preventing death from the Delta variant, which is the most dominant form of Covid in the UK.

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Researchers defined death from Covid as anyone who died within 28 days of a positive PCR test, or with Covid recorded as a cause of death on their death certificate.

The study analysed data from 5.4 million people in Scotland between April 1 and September 27 this year.

During this period, 115,000 people tested positive for Covid using a PCR test in the community, rather than in hospital, and there were 201 Covid-related deaths recorded.

No deaths have been recorded in those who have been double vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine in Scotland, according to the data.

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Researchers said it is therefore not possible to estimate this particular vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing Covid-related deaths.

The research team from the University of Edinburgh, University of Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland analysed the dataset as part of the “EAVE II project” – Early Pandemic Evaluation and Enhanced Surveillance of Covid-19 – which uses anonymised linked patient data to track the pandemic and the vaccine rollout in real time.

Professor Aziz Sheikh, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute and EAVE II study lead, said: “With the Delta variant now the dominant strain in many places worldwide and posing a higher risk of hospitalisation than previous variants seen in the UK, it is reassuring to see that vaccination offers such high protection from death very shortly after the second dose.

“If you still have not taken up your offer to be vaccinated, I would encourage you to do so based on the clear benefits it offers.”

Professor Chris Robertson, of the University of Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland, said: “This study shows the value of carrying out analyses of routine healthcare data available in near real-time.

“Our findings are encouraging in showing that the vaccine remains an effective measure in protecting both ourselves and others from death from the most dominant variant of Covid-19. It is very important to validate these early results in other settings and with a longer follow-up study.”

To increase confidence in these early findings, researches said data gathering needs to be repeated in other countries and settings, and with longer follow-up time after full vaccination.

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The team behind the study said due to the observational nature of the figures, data about vaccine effectiveness should be interpreted with caution and it is not possible to make a direct comparison between both vaccines.


Two children among five taken to hospital after car careers off road

The crash occurred on Wednesday afternoon when a red Kia Rio left the A74 near Beattock.

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Crash: Five in hospital, including two infants, following one-car crash.

Three adults and two infants have been taken to hospital following a serious road crash in Dumfries and Galloway. 

The incident occurred around 4.45pm on the A74 near Beattock on Wednesday, when a red Kia Rio left the carriageway.

Emergency services attended and the road was closed in both directions for around three hours. 

The 60-year-old female driver of the car was taken to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow with serious injuries while a 24-year-old woman was taken to Dumfries and Galloway Infirmary with a serious injury.

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A 46-year-old man was also taken to Dumfries and Galloway Infirmary for observation and two infants, a boy and a girl, were also taken to the same hospital as a precaution. 

Road Policing sergeant Lloyd Caven said: “We are appealing to anyone with information, particularly if you have dash-cam footage, to get in touch.

“If you can help please call us on 101, quoting incident number 2468 of Wednesday, October 20.”


COP26 plagued by ‘nightmare’ visa process and vaccine inequality

Delegates have been left waiting months to get their passports back while youth activists risk being unable to attend at all.

Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad via Handout
Maria Aguilar, an official observer for COP26, has waited more than two months to find out if she can come to Glasgow.

Young people and those from countries worst affected by climate change are facing issues with visas and vaccines jeopardising their involvement in what is billed as the “last best hope” for the world to tackle the crisis.

The number of accredited delegates has been significantly reduced and only those with official acknowledgement from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) can access the UK’s streamlined COP26 visa process.

Despite having accreditation from the youth constituency of UNFCCC, attendees to the Conference of Youth – an “essential part of the COP calendar” – have to use the standard visa application impacting on the ability of young people to attend the summit which is specifically for them.

“You are looking at an 18 to 20 page document with extensive and often confusing and conflicting questions, going into your family’s history and financial background,” said Blair Melville, a lawyer working with the Visa Support Service set up by the civil society COP26 Coalition.

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Climate change protest
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The “genuine visitor requirement” demands evidence that the applicant has sufficient ties to their own country and sufficient reason to come to the UK – conditions that Mr Melville said were a struggle for young activists to satisfy.

“It is particularly difficult for these young activists who are more often than not single or not married, nor have children, don’t have jobs or have jobs at graduate or junior level or are doing volunteering in their communities.”

But even for those who have official UN accreditation, there have been obstacles.

Maria Aguilar, an associate lawyer with a Colombian NGO dedicated to women’s development, said the visa process has been a “nightmare”.

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“It has been over two months I have been waiting for a visa,” she told STV News, “The whole problem is there is so much difficulty in getting through and communicating with somebody.”

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Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad a Colombian NGO that supports the development of women in the country.

Just two days before her flight is due to leave for the UK, her passport has still not been returned.

Ms Aguilar wants to come to Glasgow representing the Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad to help highlight the human rights impact of the climate crisis.

For the second year in a row, Colombia saw the highest number of killings of environmental defenders across the world with 65 murders in 2020.

“We are pushing as a region for more ambitious commitments and I hope Glasgow is the place that will deliver on it.”

Maria Aguilar, Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad

A report from Global Witness, a climate justice NGO, said widespread attacks on human rights defenders and community leaders across the country were worsened by the Covid pandemic.

Government lockdowns led to victims being targeted in their homes.

“It’s horrible and outrageous,” Ms Aguilar said, “It’s a matter of ethics and responsibility.

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“We are pushing as a region for more ambitious commitments and I hope Glasgow is the place that will deliver on it.”

While entering the UK is easier for lots of countries in the Global North, this is not the case for many in the Global South where people are feeling the impact of climate change most acutely.

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Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad a Colombian NGO that supports the development of women in the country.

The COP26 Coalition said that this made it a struggle for community representatives and campaigners from these worse affected countries to come to Glasgow to have their voices heard.

“These visa arrangements are political,” Mr Melville said, “When you look at indigenous communities, working with groups across Latin America, Central Africa, and India, communities shunned largely by national governments, get even less representation.”

“They have a right to be there, these are international discussions about how to address a crisis which is affecting them right now.”

Then there are the issues affecting travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the availability of vaccines.

According to the Global Change Data Lab, 70 per cent of the population in high-income countries have received at least one dose compared to under three per cent in low-income countries.

The UK and Scottish Governments both amended legislation uniquely for COP26 recognising all Covid-19 vaccines and all vaccination programmes.

In partnership with the UN, the Westminster govbernment ran a programme to deliver vaccines to those who would not otherwise have been able to get one in their home country.

In September, with just a month to go until the summit, Mohamed Adow, director of the Nairobi-based energy and climate think tank Power Shift Africa, was still waiting for his first dose.

He said he did not feel safe attending the summit without a vaccine.

“How can participants represent themselves on equal footing when they aren’t in the room.”

The Home Office said it aimed to prioritise COP26 visa applications in line with travel dates and that it has been encouraging applicants to make use of the chargeable priority services available at centres at locations around the world.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have been working with delegates from around the world on their visa applications to ensure COP26 is inclusive and accessible. Visas are free for those who have been approved by the United Nations.

“We aim to process all visa applications within 15 working days – but those which are more complicated or when individuals do not provide the required information may take longer.”


Friends issue plea over missing ‘sweet and funny’ acting student

Timothy Chiwaula, 23, disappeared in Glasgow, without his phone, wallet or passport, ten days ago.

Police Scotland
Timothy Chiwaula was last seen about 8.45pm on Monday, October 11, in Old Shettleston Road.

Friends of a young man studying acting in Glasgow have appealed for help after he disappeared from his home ten days ago.

Timothy Chiwaula, 23, was last seen by friends in his house on Old Shettleston Road in the city’s east end around midnight on Sunday, October 10.

They said he does not have his phone, wallet or passport.

Fellow students and friends of Timothy’s from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland said they miss and love him and were praying for his return.

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“Timmy is funny, he’s always cracking a joke and so full of energy and always caring about the people around him,” one said.

“His smile is more than infectious, you can see instantly how full of life he is,” another who did not want to be identified said.

Timothy was last seen at around 8.45pm on Monday, October 11, on the road he lived on in the Shettleston/Greenfield area.

Friends said the “fiercely talented and resilient” performer was a “sweet” and “kind” person.

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It is believed the BA Acting student is on foot and is known to frequent Glasgow city centre.

“We are all thinking so much of Tim, his family and loved ones,” a friend said, “If anybody has seen or heard anything at all about Timothy, please get in touch as soon as possible.”

A spokesperson for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland said: ““We share the concerns of Tim’s family and friends and urge him to get in touch and anyone with information they think might be helpful to contact Police Scotland on 101, quoting incident number PS-20211014-0832.”

Timothy is described as 5ft7 with black dreadlocked hair.

He was possibly wearing the jacket as seen in the picture above, but Police Scotland said this could not be confirmed.


Great-gran ‘shocked’ after delivery driver repeatedly groped her

The 73-year-old was sexually assaulted by Hermes employee Graham Kennedy in November.

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Attack: Woman groped by delivery driver in own home.

A great-grandmother was “shocked” after being repeatedly groped by a delivery driver in her own home.

The 73-year-old woman was patted on her breast “three or four times” by Hermes employee Graham Kennedy, 40, at the flat in Glasgow’s Possilpark on November 10, 2020.

The retired cook confronted Kennedy who apologised and told her he was trying to “pat her tummy.”

She was further alarmed when Kennedy delivered an item to her home a few weeks after she had reported him to the company he was doing deliveries for.

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Kennedy denied the single sexual assault charge on the woman at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

He claimed that he tickled the woman amid claims she told him she was lonely.

The woman stated in evidence that Kennedy arrived at her flat to collect rugs to return to the Wayfair company.

Prosecutor Derek Buchanan asked what company the driver worked for.

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She replied: “Hermes.”

The woman added: “When I opened the door, he had no mask on.

“I said stand back, there are three or four rugs at the bottom of my door.”

The woman claimed Kennedy had a problem as there appeared to be no returns labels on the rugs.

She called Wayfair’s customer service in the meantime.

The woman said: “He came in [the living room] with one of the rugs in his hand.

“He said he would open up one of the rugs to see if there was a returns label inside.

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“He came and sat next to me on the sofa before I knew it…he patted me on my left breast three or four times.”

Mr Buchanan asked if she invited Kennedy to sit down.

She replied: “I didn’t invite him into my house never mind my sofa.

“I was so taken aback…I jumped up in shock.

“I said ‘I’m an old woman’.

“It was just the shock of a young man doing that to an old woman.

“He said he didn’t mean it and he meant to pat my tummy.”

The woman called Kennedy a “dirty b******” and ordered him to “get out” her flat.

She then called Wayfair to complain about Kennedy’s conduct.

The woman said she felt “worn out” after having to repeat the circumstances to Wayfair and Hermes.

She stated that “three or four weeks” later Kennedy delivered a car cover to her from the Aldi supermarket.

She said: “He put the parcel down and moved back, I was just in total shock.

“I remember him saying ‘did you get the rugs uplifted?’ and he walked away.”

Mr Buchanan asked how the woman felt about the first incident.

She replied: “Totally disgusted, I can’t express in words how I felt.

“My person was invaded by a stranger.

“When you are a great grandmother, you don’t expect someone to do that to you in your own home.”

Neil Kilcoyne, defending, put it to the woman that there was a discussion between the pair about printers and getting return labels from a shop.

The lawyer then said: “His position is you said to him that you were alone and he laughed and said are you looking for somebody else?

“You were sitting to his left and he had two fingers and touched you at the side.”

The woman – who is divorced and widowed – replied: “I totally refute that statement, I love being on my own, I don’t want a man in my life.”

Kennedy was quizzed by police and the interview was shown to the court.

He denied touching the woman but admitted giving her a “tickle” at the side of her.

Sheriff Valerie Mays told Kennedy when convicting him that he touched the woman and didn’t accept that he had tickled her.

The sheriff said: “You touched her sexually and the fact you touched her sexually gives rise that it was sexually motivated and for those reasons I find you guilty.”

Sentence was deferred until next month for background reports and Kennedy was put on the sex offenders register meantime.


Energy price cap needs to be changed, says Scottish Power boss

The energy price cap is likely to cost the industry around £5bn over the next six months.

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Ofgem has said it is working closely with government to ensure that customers remain protected.

Britain’s energy price cap should be changed to become more reflective of the cost for suppliers to buy energy from the wholesale market, the boss of one of Britain’s biggest suppliers has said.

The energy price cap is likely to cost the industry around £5bn over the next six months as customers fall off their fixed-term tariffs and are moved onto a cap-regulated tariff, Scottish Power chief executive Keith Anderson said.

It will likely bring down dozens more energy suppliers and leave just a handful, maybe five or six, businesses in the market, he said.

“The impact of that, if nothing else changes between now and then, we think you could see by that time the market return to five or six companies, and you could go all the way back to a new version of the Big Six,” he said.

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“I don’t think that’s in the industry’s interest, it’s not in customers’ interest, and it’s not in the interest of the regulator either.”

At the moment, customers who are coming to the end of their one-year fixed-term energy deal with Scottish Power or another supplier are being rolled onto the price cap, currently set at £1277 for the average household.

But gas prices have increased a lot in recent months, meaning the cost for suppliers to buy that energy is now higher than the price they charge.

When a household rolls onto the default tariff an energy supplier will buy their energy a year in advance, something which will cost them around £1000 per customer.

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Change is needed to the price cap, Anderson said. But there has been little movement from officials, despite many meetings.

He added: “Our view would be the price cap should be changed at least quarterly, perhaps more frequently depending on the market conditions.

“And the price cap has to catch up with the reality of the cost, and the supply cost of gas and electricity, more quickly than it currently does.”

Regulator Ofgem said: “Ofgem is working closely with Government and industry to ensure that customers remain protected. We have robust systems in place to ensure this.

“The price cap will remain in place this winter to protect millions of people from the sudden increases in global gas prices.

“We are also working with Government to ensure that we have a sustainable energy market that works for all customers.”


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