Housing and Welfare Margaret Burgess is expected to reaffirm the Scottish Government’s commitment to ending fuel poverty when she opens a national conference on fuel poverty today.
Organised by the national charity Energy Action Scotland, the conference is entitled ‘Bringing the Fuel Poor in from the Cold’ and is taking place at Coylumbridge, near Aviemore.
Being located in the Highlands, it will have a focus on rural issues and among the topics for debate will be the premium on living in rural areas
With increases in the cost of living hitting many households, how best to manage energy bills is a hot topic and Energy Action Scotland wants to make sure that help is given as a priority to support those people living in the coldest homes and on the lowest incomes.
Other topics for discussion at the conference include the roll-out of smart meters, who pays for grant and support programmes, and alternative energy models.
A ‘Question Time’ panel debate at the conference will include Holyrood MPs Rhoda Grant, Alison Johnestone, Mary Scanlon, Maureen Watt and Westminster MP Sir Robert Smith.
Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess said: “Fuel poverty remains a huge concern for the Scottish Government, and I am delighted to open this year’s Energy Action Scotland conference, which provides an opportunity for a range of organisations to come together to seek solutions to this important issue.
“It is a scandal that there should be any fuel poverty in a country as energy-rich as Scotland, with more than 27% households affected.
“The government is aware that customers in rural and remote areas face some of the highest energy prices in the country, and we are doing all we can with the powers we currently have to address this.
“We are providing £79 million funding this year for our home energy efficiency programmes to help people manage their fuel bills better and give them warmer homes. And as part of this, some of our most remote areas are receiving over £5 million more in funding than they did last year.
“We continue to work with councils and energy companies to ensure that Scotland gets its fair share of funding for home energy efficiency.”
Norman Kerr, Energy Action Scotland Director, said: “It has been shown that living in remote and rural areas can add significantly to people’s cost of living.
“Rural homes are often off the mains gas grid and so are dependent on other forms of fuel and can be hard-to-treat when it comes to fitting insulation. Rural fuel poverty is a problem that needs much more effort to solve.
“Too many people across the country live today in fuel poverty. It is essential that everyone who faces living in a cold home and who can’t afford their fuel bills can get much-needed assistance wherever they live.”
A range of agencies, charities and companies from across the country will come together at the two-day conference and its accompanying exhibition to discuss solutions to cold, damp homes.