Fuel poverty leads to hundreds of winter deaths in Scotland

Web couple under blanket trying to keep warm in the cold

The Existing Homes Alliance has called on the Scottish Government to take further action to improve the energy efficiency of homes to help save lives

17th October 2017 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Campaigners say around a third of unnecessary winter deaths could be avoided by taking action to ensure homes are warm.

The Existing Homes Alliance has called on the Scottish Government to take further action to improve the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes in the wake of new statistics showing that an excess of 2,720 people died in winter 2016/17 compared with warmer months.

The group says the forthcoming Scottish Government warm homes bill provides a crucial opportunity to make sure every home in the country is properly insulated and heated.

The figures have shown that there were 20,930 deaths registered in Scotland in the four months of winter 2016/17 (December to March).

This meant the seasonal increase in deaths during winter 2016/17 was 2,720, compared to 2,850 for the previous winter.

The National Records of Scotland, which compiles the figures, says that the five-year moving average for excess winter deaths has barely changed since the early 2000s.

Lori McElroy, chair of the Existing Homes Alliance, said: "The warm homes bill is a historic opportunity for MSPs – they can make sure that this generation is the last to suffer the terrible consequences of living in cold, damp homes.

“We welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has committed to eradicating poor energy performance of homes as a reason to be in fuel poverty, and now we need to take action to make that a reality.

"Every year, Scotland sees more deaths in winter than in other seasons, and last year was no different. Research by the World Health Organisation says that around 30% of these deaths could have been avoided if everyone in Scotland lived in a home that was adequately insulated and heated.

"This is literally a matter of life and death. We can no longer afford to live in a country where people die because they live in a cold home."

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland’s director Theresa Fyffe said: “The winter mortality statistics are an annual reminder of just how many of the most vulnerable in our society are at risk from fuel poverty.

“They face the challenge of trying to live in cold, hard-to-heat homes and, as these statistics show, too often the price they pay is too high.”

Age Scotland said that more action is needed to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency. 

“It’s disappointing to see that excess winter deaths have remained relatively unchanged over the last decade, with older people most likely to be affected," said the charity's Keith Robson.

“Cold weather can have a serious, and indeed deadly, impact on people who have existing health conditions such as heart disease, respiratory problems or dementia.

“It’s unacceptable that so many older people in Scotland today cannot afford to heat their homes adequately. While we welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to a warm homes bill, we need to do more to protect our most vulnerable citizens."