Fuel poverty set to break the 50 per cent barrier in Hebrides

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April’s energy price rises will see more than 40 per cent of households in large parts of Scotland move into fuel poverty.

Modelling by fuel poverty campaigners Energy Action Scotland show 57 per cent of people in the Western Isles will be spending more than 10 per cent of their income on energy – after housing costs have been deducted – the official definition of being fuel poor.

A further 11 local authority areas will see two in every five homes moving into fuel poverty.

One family of three near Oban, who live in an ‘electricity light’ two-bedroom home, with heating supplied by a multi-fuel stove, calculated they will still be paying more than £189 per month.

Energy Action Scotland is urging the UK government to tax profits made by oil and gas giants, as well as cut VAT on energy bills, and redistribute the VAT windfall to help lowest income households.

‘Continued inaction will cost lives,’ said its chief executive Frazer Scott. ‘Over 2,000 more people die in winter when cold, damp homes reduce health and wellbeing. Around one in three of these deaths are directly attributable to living in fuel poverty. These deaths are avoidable, but look set to rise as prices rocket.’

Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, called on the Scottish Government to reform new ventilation standards which may make island homes draughtier and more costly to heat.

Western Isles housing association Tighean Innse Gall (TIG) is no longer able to administer government-funded insulation projects – not due to a lack of funding, but because demand in the Western Isles has collapsed due to the new regulations.

Ventilation standards set out in the PAS 2035:2019 regulations are now required for any government-funded energy efficiency home improvements. They include 2cm gaps under internal doors, fixed mechanical ventilation, and window vents.

TIG say these rules have dramatically reduced the number of people in the islands willing to accept much-needed retrofitting measures meant to help make their homes warmer.

Dr Allan said: ‘In one of the areas worst affected by fuel poverty in Europe, it is imperative funded energy efficiency measures are continued, and the necessary changes are made to be able to allow this.

‘It does not make sense to continue to apply unsuitable ventilation standards which could make homes draughtier, leading to even higher heating costs.’

Meanwhile Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara is co-sponsoring the Energy Pricing (Off Gas Grid Households) Bill, designed to help those people living off the gas grid, whose fuel prices are becoming increasingly unaffordable.

Mr O’Hara is also calling for a dedicated financial package for households in rural areas without a mains gas connection, who could see their energy bills rocket to more than £4,000 per year.

Speaking after the UK and US Governments announced bans for Russian oil and gas imports, Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston urged the Scottish Government to scrap its policy of opposing oil and gas exploration.

‘We have to prioritise security of energy supplies while we transition to net zero,’ he said. ‘The UK’s oil and gas sector must be allowed to continue to play its significant role in keeping the lights on, as well as keeping a lid on the rocketing price of fuel.’