In his latest Advertiser column, Brendan O'Hara, SNP MP for Argyll and Bute, writes about how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting people in his constituency.

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I AM sure for the past few months every time you’ve been to the supermarket or gone to fill the car, you have commented on the ever-accelerating rise in the cost of food and fuel.

I’m equally sure the Chancellor’s rather meagre response by cutting duty by 5p a litre, and simply putting the price back to what it had been 48 hours earlier, didn’t go unremarked upon either.

I fear, however, this is just the beginning of the worst cost-of-living crisis we will have experienced in generations. The removal of the energy price cap on April 1 will prompt spiralling gas and electricity prices, resulting in an expected energy bill rise of 54 per cent on average, across the board.

Here in Argyll and Bute, we’re already paying the highest energy bills in the UK and next year our average bill is going to be around £1,000 dearer at a whopping £2,837 a year.

Helensburgh Advertiser: The energy price cap was increased on April 1The energy price cap was increased on April 1

About 65 per cent of properties in Argyll and Bute aren’t connected to the gas grid, and as anyone who relies on domestic heating oil will tell you, the price hike in heating oil has been eye-watering.

Without urgent UK Government intervention, some experts believe that off-gas grid households could see their bills rise to nearly £4,000. On top of the other price rises they’re facing, I don’t think many in our rural community could withstand such a hike.

To bring this matter directly to the attention of the UK Chancellor and the Prime Minister, I have co-sponsored the Energy Pricing (Off Gas Grid Households) Bill 2021-22, proposed by my SNP colleague Drew Hendry MP.

Argyll and Bute is not a wealthy constituency. Many people here live in extreme poverty, in homes which they’ll find impossible to heat, with cars which they won’t be able to afford to fill, living miles from a supermarket in which they cannot afford to shop.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Fuel prices are higher than everFuel prices are higher than ever

I met with the Poverty Alliance to discuss the complex issue of rural poverty and how the challenges of being unemployed, or being on minimum wage, or a zero-hours contract, or being a single parent, or being a pensioner in receipt of the basic state pension, are very different from those faced in cities where there is at least a developed support network available and accessing it by public transport is relatively straightforward.

Because of this, when parliament returns after the Easter recess, I will establish an all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on rural poverty.

It will be open to all MPs in the UK and will exist to highlight the unique challenges facing people in rural communities living in or at the threat of falling into poverty.

Sadly, I predict this new APPG is going to be extremely busy for the foreseeable future.