The Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force, which will have its inaugural meeting in Inverness on August 20, will explore the issues facing people in fuel poverty and prepare a report on its findings over the next year
Housing Minister, Margaret Burgess, said: “People in rural areas can often struggle to heat their homes because their properties tend to be more exposed to wind and weather and are more expensive to heat as the majority are not connected to mains gas supplies. It is unacceptable for people to face these fuel poverty challenges just because of where they live.
“Our new Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force will come up with a range of ideas specifically tailored to help people in more remote parts of Scotland reduce their fuel costs and keep their homes warm.
“We are committed to making sure everyone has access to an affordable warm home, and we are investing heavily in energy efficiency schemes. Our £65 million for HEEPS: Area-Based Schemes is directed to those areas most in need of assistance, including our rural areas.
”People in Orkney will benefit from energy efficiency measures such as cavity wall and loft insulation measures through this scheme while the Home Energy Scotland hotline continues to offer free and impartial advice on how people can reduce their energy costs.
“By making sure people in the islands and in more rural parts of the country have the same chances to make their homes warmer, cheaper and easier to heat, we are tackling the inequalities that exist in our country.”
The latest Scottish House Condition Survey statistics found that 58 per cent of households in Orkney were classified as being in fuel poverty in December 2013, compared to the national fuel poverty level of 39.1 per cent. Orkney alone received £1.34 million through Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland: Area Based Schemes this year with the scheme set to help 230 households on the island access improvements like solid wall, cavity and loft insulation.
Councillor Steven Heddle, Convener of Orkney Islands Council, said: “With over half of Orkney’s households spending more than a 10th of their income to stay warm, tackling fuel poverty is a priority for us.
“Through the Our Islands Our Future initiative we stress the need to avoid one-size-fits-all solutions. In response, the Scottish Government has demonstrated its willingness to build flexibility into the HEEPS:ABS scheme so that it better meets the specific needs of our community.
“We welcome the setting up of the new Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force. There will be representation from the islands and we look forward to playing our part in the development of innovative ways to help people reduce the cost of keeping their homes warm in communities like ours.”
The new short-life group will be chaired by Di Alexander, Chair of the Rural and Highlands Housing Associations’ Forum and will look at ways of building on the Scottish Government’s on-going work.
Di Alexander, the new chair of the Task Force, said: “Affordable warmth is still presenting a major problem for far too many rural and island households, especially those living in doubly disadvantaged off-gas areas.
“The job of the Task Force is to come up with practicable and deliverable solutions to all aspects of the problem and I’m delighted that we will have so much problem-solving experience to draw upon when we set to our task.”