The nationalisation of energy companies should be “on the table” to deal with soaring bills, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The Scottish first minister said on Sunday that the rise in the energy price cap “can’t be allowed to go ahead” as new forecasts topped £6,000 a year.
Pointing to the situation in France, where the government has nationalised supplier EDF, Ms Sturgeon suggested the government might take stakes in firms in exchange for subsidy.
But she stressed that it was for the UK government to take the decision on how proceed.
The latest expert forecast for the energy price cap warns that bills could soar as high as £6,000 by April, with prices topping £3,500 this autumn.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said the price cap should be frozen, with funding provided to suppliers to keep prices down – but shied away from suggesting the government take stakes in energy companies in return for the cash.
The government has announced no new help on bills since the Spring, with policymaking apparently paralysed by the Tory leadership race. It is offering people £400 off their bills, with more support for the most vulnerable.
Whoever wins the contest is expected to announce new measures in September in an emergency budget – though frontrunner Liz Truss has said she wants to avoid “handouts” and will focus on cutting taxes.
Asked whether public ownership should be considered, first minister Ms Sturgeon told the BBC: “I think all of these things have to be on the table. I don’t have the power to do that: the UK government should be considering [it]. That kind of action has been taken with EDF and France right now. And yes, all of these things.
“Cancel the price cap increase, do that first of all, and then yes, how is that then funded? What is the contribution from energy companies, the UK Government, what does it mean in terms of the ownership profile of energy companies? All of that has to be on the table.
“But first and foremost, this increase in people’s energy bills, further increase in people’s energy bills, can’t be allowed to go ahead, because it is making it impossible for people to provide the basics for themselves and their families.
“But it’s also continuing to fuel inflation, which of course is causing the problem in the first place.”
Speaking on the public broadcaster’s Scotland on Sunday programme Ms Sturgeon also said the country faces a “looming disaster” with rising energy bills and announce she would convene a summit with major energy suppliers, including Scottish Power, OVO Energy and E.ON.
“I want us to come together to call on the UK Government to take the action only it can take,” she said.
“There is a looming disaster that is already unfolding but it is going to get worse.
“This is going to cause destitution and devastation, this will cause loss of life if real action is not taken to stem this crisis.”
Consultancy Auxilione says that the energy price cap is expected to reach £3,576 in October, rising to £4,799 in January, and eventually hitting £6,089 in April.
Until April this year the cap was just £1,277, but prices have been pushed up by the war in Ukraine and a surge in demand caused by the reopening of economies after Covid-19 lockdowns.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “We are providing a £400 discount on energy bills this winter, and £1,200 of direct support for the most vulnerable households.
“While no Government can control global gas prices, over 22 million households are protected by the price cap which continues to insulate households from even higher prices.”