A third of Scots are now living in fuel poverty


​Hundreds of thousands of households struggle to heat their homes - despite a pledge to eradicate the problem by November

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24th October 2016 by Graham Martin 1 Comment

More people are living in fuel poverty in Scotland than ever before despite a government commitment to eliminate the problem by next month.

Charities have said fuel poverty has reached crisis point as more than a third of the population is spending more than 10% of its income on energy.

In fact, since the Scottish Government set the a target in 2003 to elimate the problem by November 2016, the number of Scots living in fuel poverty has doubled. 

The situation is particularly bad in rural areas, reaching 55% in the Highlands and a shocking 62% in the Western Isles and 63% in Orkney.

Missing fuel poverty targets by such a margin is evidence that the current approach from the Scottish Government to tackling this issue is simply not enough

And charities say, the reality is that even more people are struggling to heat their homes, as the definition of fuel poverty is dangerously outdated.

The scale of the problem became clear as the Scottish Government revealed the findings of a pair of major reports into the issue – including one looking specifically at the plight of rural households.

More than 100 recommendations for action were made in the reports.

Energy Action Scotland (EAS) is urging ministers to now reset the target to eliminate fuel poverty in Scotland.

Its director Norman Kerr said: “There is a wealth of information in the two reports which ministers must now consider in order to review the fuel poverty strategy for Scotland. 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 resetting 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."

The Existing Homes Alliance said key to success will be the elimination of poor building energy efficiency, which has been identified as a driver of fuel poverty.

Lori McElroy, the group’s chair, said: "When this target date was set for the elimination of fuel poverty, it was universally described as ambitious. For more than a decade experts have warned that a target alone was not enough, and that concerted action would be required so no-one is left in fuel poverty because of the state of their home.

“This earlier target has been missed because insufficient action has been taken since 2002, but today's reports clearly show the way ahead. The Scottish Government has all the powers it needs to regulate and improve the quality of the homes we live in. The first test of those commitments will be the forthcoming Scottish Budget process. Will the money follow?" 

Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said: “Fuel poverty has a huge impact on people’s lives – especially the young and elderly. It’s unacceptable that in 21st century Scotland many households still face the stark choice of heating or eating and that thousands of extra deaths each year are attributed to the cold conditions. Missing our current fuel poverty targets by such a margin is evidence that the current approach from the Scottish Government to tackling this issue is simply not enough to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland."

Scottish Labour housing spokesperson Pauline McNeill MSP said: “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. 

“This winter thousands of children will be cold in their own homes and that simply is not acceptable in 2016. The SNP government really need to get their act together – the time for talking is over we need action from a government that in 10 years has failed to get a grip. 

"Labour wants to see a Warm Homes Act to drive up standards and regulations. We also need to stop the cuts to local councils. 

“That's why Labour will propose amendments to the upcoming Scottish budget to introduce a penny for public services on income tax to stop the cuts and invest instead." 

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “We are committed to eradicating fuel poverty. Since 2008 over one million energy efficiency measures have been installed in almost one million households across Scotland which has helped make homes warmer and easier to heat. We will build on this by investing half a billion pounds over the next four years to continue tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency.”

The existing definition of fuel poverty was drawn up 15 years ago and includes any household that has to spend more than 10% of its income, including benefits, in order to maintain a "satisfactory heating regime".

However, recent research for the Scottish Government indicates that more than half of "fuel poor" households would not be classified as "income poor" and that the definition does not include household mortgage payments and the varying needs of different age groups. For example, older retired people may need to heat their homes for longer and to a higher temperature than younger people who are out of their homes for longer during the day.

Therefore, charities say vulnerable people are suffering as the extent of fuel poverty is imperfectly mapped.

7th November 2016 by mike knoth