Government urged to take real action on fuel poverty

29 May 2018, 07:14


Fifty groups from across Scotland have joined forces to call for "real action" from the Government in tackling fuel poverty.

The groups, led by the Existing Homes Alliance, fear the Scottish Government's planned Warm Homes Bill will be a missed opportunity, unless steps are taken to beef up the legislation.

Ministers have already committed that the Bill will enshrine in legislation their "long term ambition to eradicate fuel poverty".

But the groups - who include trade unions, environmental campaigners, the Church of Scotland, businesses and others, want politicians to "ensure that Scotland gets the Warm Homes Bill it was promised and that it deserves".

The latest figures showed 649,000 households - 26.5% of the total in Scotland - were classed as being in fuel poverty in 2016, meaning they needed to spend at least 10% of their income to keep their properties warm.

Lori McElroy, chair of the Existing Homes Alliance, said: "More than a quarter of Scottish households are still living in fuel poverty - the same proportion who faced cold homes a decade ago - and over a million homes fall below the energy efficiency standard needed for our health.

"All political parties agree this is unacceptable in a modern, wealthy country. The promised Warm Homes Bill represented a once in a generation opportunity for change.

"But the Scottish Government is in danger of failing to grasp that opportunity. The proposed Fuel Poverty Bill is far too narrow, focused just on creating a new definition of fuel poverty and setting new fuel poverty targets.

"This is incredibly important, but we can do so much more. So today we are calling on the Scottish Government and all MSPs to ensure that Scotland gets the Warm Homes Bill it was promised and that it deserves."

The 50 groups all want the Bill to include long term targets for improving energy performance with clear timescales for action, as well as incentives for homes to be made more energy efficient.

In addition they want to ensure everyone can benefit from affordable heat, regardless of where they live, their housing type and income.

Groups that have joined in the coalition include Age Scotland, the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers, the British Lung Foundation Scotland, the Chartered Institute of Housing, and the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland.

The Church of Scotland has signed up, along with Citizens Advice Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland, the National Union of Students, One Parent Families Scotland, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Nursing Scotland.

They are joined by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Scottish Directors of Public Health, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, housing charity Shelter Scotland, environmental campaigners at Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and WWF Scotland, the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), and the unions Unison Scotland, Unite, and the University and Colleges Union (UCU).

"It is not often that such a wide range of voices from across Scotland come together in such a powerful way," Ms McElroy said.

"There is a broad, growing consensus across society, business, and among politicians that we need to take real action on fuel poverty and energy efficiency.

"Bringing Scotland's homes up to a standard of energy efficiency will tackle fuel poverty and climate change, reduce ill-health, improve well-being, reduce inequalities, and create and sustain jobs across Scotland. It is quite simply one of the best investments that the Scottish Government could make."

Minister for Local Government and Housing, Kevin Stewart, said: "The Scottish Government is determined to tackle fuel poverty and to improve the energy efficiency of Scotland's housing stock and we welcome the fact that almost 100,000 fewer households were in fuel poverty in 2016 compared to the previous year, but we are determined to do more.

"That is why by the end of 2021 we will have allocated over £1 billion toward these twin goals and why we have consulted on a new fuel poverty strategy, definition and target, which will inform a Bill to be laid before the Scottish Parliament shortly."