I HAVE a friend who is raging at SSE Energy Services. Not big news, I hear you say – the entire country is flaming about their power bills and the energy giants. Indeed they are, but just hear me out.

My friend phoned me because she knows I am chair of the Alba Party and thought we would be interested in her experience and may be able to use it politically. The particular cause of her ire was an email sent to her in the last few days by SSE Energy Services – “part of the OVO family” – telling her that it might jeopardise her “credit rating” if she was late in paying her electricity bill – and demanding that she stump up that very day in response to their inflated demands.

Checking her account, she was able to establish that the initial bill had been sent to her in late April and yet within two weeks she was on the receiving end of the above bully-boy tactics. She also pointed out that the “OVO family” had totally failed to answer her entirely reasonable enquiry of March 31, designed to ensure her usage up until that date was being charged at the old electricity rate of 20.9p per kWh, not the new rate of 30.61p, and that OVO’s near doubling of its standing charges was similarly being properly accounted for.

Unlike many of our fellow citizens, her anger was not based on her personal ability to pay and she duly settled the bill. Her fury was twofold.

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First she asked the obvious question. She is a successful businesswoman and has ample means. But what of the pensioner on the receiving end of similar communications? What right does a company confronting people with sky-high bills have to intimidate in such a casual manner?

Rather, should they not start by apologising to their customers for the outrageous price rises, enquire if they can help in any way, and then ask politely and humbly if people can afford these extraordinary impositions? Instead, the new SSE – “part of the OVO family” – chooses to act like highwaymen, a case of standing charge and deliver!

My friend’s call was very therapeutic. I was able to unload my own personal experience of 40 minutes on phone hold just to ensure that my gas bill was similarly being properly charged. And then I got round to the subject of the “OVO family”.

SSE Energy Services are the charmers that in January told hard-pressed customers to keep their bills low by eating “hearty bowls of porridge”, “drinking water”, embarking on “star jumps” and “cuddling their pets”.

Multi-millionaire OVO boss Stephen Fitzpatrick (net worth £600 million) won social media plaudits for his profuse apologies on BBC breakfast television. The very next day, his Bristol-based company announced 1700 redundancies, with their Scottish operations hit the hardest.

And that brought my friend to her second point. “Isn’t SSE some sort of public company,” she mused. I was then able to discharge my second volley. Yes indeed it was once a public company, established by the great Tom Johnston as the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board to bring “power to the glens” and then make it affordable through the “hydro endowment”.

However, it was sold off by Thatcher in 1989 and then two years ago SSE sold off its retail business to the “challenger company” OVO, a subsidiary of Imagination Industries Ltd which in turn is wholly owned by the aforesaid Fitzpatrick. This made OVO the UK’s second-largest energy supply company.

Last year, as part of an investigation into price protection failings by energy suppliers, OVO was found to have caused detriment to 240,563 customers and ordered to pay redress of more than £2.8m. This was the highest amount of the 18 companies investigated, but, in truth, OVO is probably no worse than the rest of the chancers who survive in this chaotic marketplace.

THIS is part of a company once formed to serve the public purpose with noble intent and a great history. Now it is reduced to being one of the privatised gang of cutthroats who tell their customers to cuddle their pets and threaten their “credit ratings” if they don’t stump up their inflated bills in double-quick time.

As I explained to my friend, the real question is what is to be done and the opportunity which, even now, is passing us by.

People are now just catching on to the fact that January’s once-heralded “ScotWind auction” was in reality the third-biggest giveaway in Scottish history. The first was “the Equivalent”, the sum of £398,085.10s, paid under the Treaty of Union for the “parcel of rogues” to sell their country.

The second was the sell-off of Scotland’s oil and gas to keep the Thatcher and Blair governments afloat and finance their foreign military adventures. The third is the current sell-off of multiple billions of offshore wind assets by Crown Estate Scotland to international capital for a £700m mess of pottage.

The first was carried forward by the old Scots Parliament, the second by Westminster, but the third is entirely the responsibility of our own modern Parliament and it is not too late to reverse this scandal and in the process inspire the national cause.

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“So what then does Alba actually propose,” asked my angry friend, “which goes beyond the public embarrassment of the ‘OVO family’.”

The answer is: one, take a public share in every offshore wind field as a licence and planning condition; two, use the capital to establish a public power company – let’s call it Scottish Hydro and Wind Power (SHAWP); and then three, bring clean, green and affordable electricity to the people of Scotland.

A public energy company, fuelled by Scotland’s resources, offering power to the people, is a banner worth rallying behind.

This convinced my friend, let’s now convince the people.