The national fuel poverty charity Energy Action Scotland is urging the Scot-Govt. to reset the target to eliminate fuel poverty in Scotland after it failed to meet its own statutory obligation to do so by the end of this month.
Energy Action Scotland endorses the call by both the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force for the new policy to “be firmly based on the principle of social justice”.
The statutory duty under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 states that the Scottish Government must ‘ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that people are not living in fuel poverty in Scotland by November 2016’
As the Scottish Government has already said this target will not be met, Energy Action Scotland is now urging Ministers to use the two reports now published to redraw the fuel poverty strategy and to reset the target date to eradicate fuel poverty.
Fuel poverty levels in Scotland have remained at about 35% of the population since 2009, and have more than doubled since 2003, just after the fuel poverty target was set.
More than a third of all households in Scotland live in fuel poverty – which is defined as spending more than 10% of household income on heating.
But nearly two people in three living in the Western Isles (62%) are categorised as living in fuel-poverty – a cruel irony in a place also dubbed the ‘Energy Isles’ because of the abundance of ‘free’ wind power.
After a year of review and investigation, the two working group reports include a range of recommendations which all require equal and careful consideration and not just a focus on the recommendation to review underlying aspects of the fuel poverty definition.
In particular, the Strategic Working Group has said that the new fuel poverty strategy “must also go beyond improving energy performance of homes and put emphasis on the other three drivers of fuel poverty ie income, energy costs and how energy is used in the home”.
The Rural Task Force believes there needs to be a greater focus on off-gas, rural and remote areas and says “a major step change is required if the target of eliminating fuel poverty in both rural and urban Scotland, within a clearly defined timescale, is going to be achieved”.
Norman Kerr, Director, Energy Action Scotland said: “Having recently set out its proposals to eradicate child poverty in Scotland by a set date, the Scottish Government now must do the same for re-setting the almost expired fuel poverty eradication target date and set it in statute.
“The Scottish Government, and all political parties in Scotland, acknowledge the problem of fuel poverty and must be given credit for tackling the problem and continuing to fund programmes to that end.
“However, to meet their ambitions to end the blight of cold, damp homes, more action must now be taken.
“People across Scotland will want to know that one day the right that everyone has to be able to live in a warm, dry home at a price they can afford will be a reality.”
MSP Pauline McNeill, the Labour party’s Housing spokesman at Holyrood, commented: “No one in Scotland should have to choose between heating or eating in 2016, yet under the SNP government in Edinburgh fuel poverty has doubled.
“The last Labour-led government set a target to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland by November this year, but that target is going to be missed by a mile by the SNP. Tackling fuel poverty should be one of the central aims of this parliament.