IF there has been one thing more than most keeping struggling families awake at night it has been the price of energy. The increasing number on the dial, with each passing revolution on the meter, means more worry and more stress to make ends meet.

Throughout this cost of living crisis – which is by no means over – workers up and down the country have been doing the exhaustive household sums over and over again.

On the weekly shop, the prices at the pump, the daily commute and, ultimately, the price families are paying to keep themselves warm at night. This isn’t the reality for the energy giants.

In the same week as there was a coronation, profit is king.

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Profiteering by companies such as Shell, which last week announced profits of £7.6 billion from the first quarter of 2023; companies such BP, which announced profits of £4bn – a company whose own chief officer said it “has more cash than we know what to do with”; and companies such as Iberdrola, the Spanish giant which owns ScottishPower and which saw profits rise 40% from last year to £1.3bn.

A broken system propped up by profit over the wellbeing of people.

This has real-world consequences. It’s not hyperbolic to suggest that people have died as a result of this crisis and this rigged energy game.

The name of 87-year-old Barbara Bolton should be etched into the profit margins of every single energy company across the land. She died this year from hypothermia. An inquest into her death heard she had deliberately not turned on her heating for “fear of high energy bills”.

This week, the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union found that four in 10 food workers are skipping meals as they simply cannot afford the cost, with 20% now relying on food banks.

The national picture is a scandal, with a 65% increase in food bank usage since 2017.

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Statistics don’t tell the story of human suffering. They can’t ever possibly convey the depths of anguish as people starve or go cold. This column, or anything you ever hear from me as leader of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, isn’t ever a grievance pitch – it’s a rallying cry.

During this past year, Scotland’s workers have been fighting back and demanding better. We’ve had enough of being told to tighten our belts while FTSE 100 CEO pay expands. We reject, in its grotesque totality, any apportioning of blame on workers for this crisis while politicians sat on their hands and failed in their duty of care.

We make no apologies, nor give no quarter, for demanding that those in power to do more quicker and more effectively while workers endure this horrible crisis.

That’s evident in our submission to the Scottish Government’s energy strategy consultation. We have a broken energy system, not just here in Scotland but throughout the UK. We cannot wait while people shiver. It’s a moral imperative for the Scottish Government to do what it can and fix the rigged energy game.

We will stand alongside it if it commits to doing all they can to achieve that. We are committed to continuing to work with government to ensure workers’ voices are heard in the quest for a genuine transition in which our members can put their faith.

Grimly, as it stands, workers can have little faith in the Scottish Government’s energy strategy to deliver for them, their households, or their communities. We can have all the targets, soundbites, and slogans we want but if there is little pathway to delivery then time and time again workers will be left in the lurch by broken promises. We all know where this story ends. It ends in a race to the bottom – for our workers, for our communities, and ultimately for our planet.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It is only through taking ownership, and setting the conditions for our energy system, that we can solve these crises.

That means having the Scottish Government finally deliver on its promise of a powerful, publicly owned energy company.

The National: The company logo at a Shell petrol station in London (Yui Mok/PA)

It means that instead of bowing to corporate giants, by opening emerging renewables industries to deregulation and profiteering, we should be taxing these companies properly and demanding the highest worker and environmental standards.

It means that if we’re serious about diversifying from fossil fuels and delivering net zero, we must take workers with us, delivering high-quality, high-skilled jobs. That’s what we mean by a “just transition”.

As this crisis has shown, we cannot simply hope for help.

Politicians, no matter their shade of rosette, haven’t done nearly enough to help those in need.

The workers of Scotland cannot ever hope to rely on Holyrood or Westminster alone to be their saviours. We won’t sit back and simply hope that others will step up to the mark. We know that it is workers in their jobs and communities that hold the real power in our economy if we can organise and build that power.

When we organise and stand up together, we can win on pay, on terms and conditions and on investment in our services.

Anything less is a let-down for our people and our planet.