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When they first took over the popular Old Library Lodge and Restaurant in Arisaig in 2019, David and Penny Buick were fulfilling their dream of running their own West Coast business.
Little did the couple know that just over a year later there would be a global nightmare scenario involving Covid lockdowns and problems caused by Brexit.
Emerging from the pandemic two years later, they could have been forgiven for thinking the worst might be over, but now they face another blow thanks to skyrocketing energy bills to around £60,000 per year.
It’s a massive hike which Mr Buick – who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, while his wife is from Arisaig – says could well threaten the future of a business that employs up to ‘to 11 people over the summer and eight currently.
He has now written to local MP Ian Blackford and local constituency MSP Kate Forbes asking for their help after he opened his latest electricity bill from Fleetwood-based energy supplier BES Utilities to find it had gone from £1,700 per month in early September to over £4,800 the first week of October.
Mr Buick told politicians: ‘Our electricity bills, like everyone else’s, have been going up all year. We were paying around £700 a month which rose to £1700 a month so imagine my surprise when I received my final bill which is a staggering £4818.48 for the period 9th September to 9th October.
“Our bills are based on actual consumption and not on estimates because we have telephone connections with our supplier.”
Mr Buick went on to tell Mr Blackford and Ms Forbes that imposing a raise of more than £3,083 was ‘untenable’ and ‘would force our business to close, perhaps for good’.
And he added: ‘Working in the Highlands of Scotland we are heavily dependent on tourism and we plan to remain open all year round, creating jobs for locals and providing a service to visitors, unfortunately this seems now less likely due to this exceptional situation. high electric charge.’
A worried Ms Forbes told us: ‘The astronomical rise in costs at The Old Library in Arisaig demonstrates that the UK government needs to do much more to protect households and businesses – current energy price measures have failed kept driving up the bills.
“The Scottish Government has exhausted the options available to deal with the cost of living crisis, stretching every available pound to provide support.
“The key levers that can make a substantial difference are held by the UK government and it must now take urgent action to use them.”
Speaking to the Lochaber Times this week, Mr Buick said BES Utilities had informed him he was free to terminate his contract – without any penalty – if he found a cheaper supplier.
“We appreciate this because there is no way on Earth that this situation will be sustainable for a small company like ours,” he said.
“It was an actual bill, not an estimate and I think it comes to around £60,000 a year and that’s with government help taken into account. On top of that we have our lease to pay, as well as staff salaries and groceries etc.
“It’s crazy and we won’t be the only Lochaber company facing this kind of situation.”
BES Utilities told us, “Mr. Buick entered into a contract for BES to supply electricity to its business. The terms and conditions of Mr. Buick’s supply contract contain a provision for prices to change – up or down – under certain circumstances, and we have unfortunately had to invoke this clause recently, due to the increase high profile and unprecedented wholesale energy cost.
“We recognize the impact of these increased costs and, as a sign of goodwill, we are giving Mr. Buick the option to terminate his contract, if he chooses.”