IT WAS a pleasure to attend the Burns supper at Haddington Burns Club.

As with so many other events, Covid had brought them to a halt. But they’re important for the community, as well as for the members.

The town’s links to the Bard through his mother, brother and a sister also give it further status.

So much of life in these past years has been like living in a silo. But we live as a community and social interactions are vital.

Last week in Parliament, I raised the issue of self-disconnections. That’s the euphemism for simply being unable to afford to access heat or power.

The word disguises the misery it causes and it’s fallacious to suggest it’s self-imposed. Instead, it comes about as people simply don’t have the cash to buy it, are worried about the further debt that will pile up if they do, or simply have had to eat or feed the kids and that’s where the money went.

The numbers I uncovered in an earlier question were staggering. In quarter three of last year, 660,000 households across Britain had self-disconnected from smart meters. But the figures will now be far higher, as that was the quarter before prices further rose and winter kicked in.

Moreover, that’s only the tip of the iceberg, as those figures relate only to smart meters. Just under 300,000 households in Scotland and just over two million in Britain are on what’s called legacy prepayment meters (PPMs). That’s those fed by coins, cards or topped up directly. They include those poorest and most vulnerable who have been struggling and were already fuel-poor long before prices rocketed.

I demanded that the forced installation of pre-payment meters that has been ongoing and that the higher standing charges perversely imposed on those with PPMs should end. All that’s required is a direction by ministers to OFGEM but that was rejected.

I also demanded a social tariff for the poorest and most vulnerable, but that’s having to wait. This is conscious cruelty at the height of a cold winter.