Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, earlier this week backed the Fuel Poverty Bill at Stage 1 in the Scottish Parliament.
The islands MSP spoke in the chamber and raised fuel poverty issues relating specifically to the Western Isles.
The Bill sets a target for the reduction of fuel poverty to no more than 5% by 2040. It also creates a new definition for fuel poverty which will work for people across Scotland, especially those on low incomes.
Alasdair Allan said:“Fuel poverty remains significant in the Western Isles. I was pleased to contribute to the debate in the Scottish Parliament about that issue.
“I welcome the Bill and the Scottish Government’s commitment to making it work in the islands.
“There are specific circumstances we face in the islands – these include the windchill factor, which is not currently recognised in the system of cold weather payments; there is the ageing population factor; the predominance of detached houses, and the general unavailability of mains gas.
"These are on top of low incomes, the flawed Universal Credit rollout, a shortage of affordable rented housing and the spiralling cost of energy.
“The Scottish Government is working to tackle fuel poverty, but there is work that the UK Government need to do as well. Benefit reforms, and rising fuel costs are within the remit of the UK Government, and they must challenge these factors.
“This Bill is a significant step in battling the scourge of fuel poverty, making homes warmer, greener and more energy efficient.”
The current Scottish definition of fuel poverty is that a household is in fuel poverty if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it would be required to spend more than 10% of its income on all household fuel use. If over 20% of income is required, then this is termed as being in extreme fuel poverty.
The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 set a statutory duty on the Scottish Government to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland, as far as was reasonably practicable, by November 2016. This statutory duty expired and the target was missed.
On 27th June 2018, in response to recommendations put forward by the Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and the Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force, and informed by an expert review and a public consultation, the Scottish Government published the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill. This was previously known as the Warm Homes Bill. This Bill will:
- Set a new target to eradicate fuel poverty
- Introduce a new definition of fuel poverty that will focus on low income households
- Develop a new long-term fuel poverty strategy
The proposed fuel poverty statutory target is to ensure that, by 2040, no more than 5% of households in Scotland will be in fuel poverty. The Scottish Government intends that the Energy Efficient Scotland programme will be the primary delivery mechanism for eradicating fuel poverty by 2040. There are two non-statutory interim targets at 2030 and 2040.