Scottish Liberal Democrat energy spokesperson Liam McArthur has today used a parliamentary debate on the new Energy Efficient Scotland Route Map to warn that SNP ministers must not attempt to “re-define” fuel poverty rather than address the underlying issues.
The SNP missed a previous statutory target to eradicate fuel poverty by November 2016 by 845,000 households.
The Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force recommended that any Minimum Income Standard (MIS) used to calculate fuel poverty would need to be uprated by between 10% and 40% to reflect the higher costs of living in rural, remote and island areas.
Worryingly, SNP Ministers have chosen to ignore this recommendation, as well as the subsequent advice from the Fuel Poverty Definition Review Panel which called for a “specific remote rural enhancement to the new MIS income threshold”.
Mr McArthur said:
“Fuel poverty is a scourge that affects communities throughout Scotland. We know, however, that rates of fuel poverty are consistently higher in rural and island communities.
“The Scottish Government have accepted that there are specific challenges to tackling rural fuel poverty. Indeed Ministers brought together a Task Force of experts to develop proposals for tackling the problem in rural and island areas.
“However, they now seem intent on ignoring key recommendations from their own experts as well as a wide variety of organisations vast experience in this area.
“The redefinition of fuel poverty and use of a single Minimum Income Standard for all of Scotland is not appropriate. It would artificially reduce fuel poverty levels in rural areas from 35% to 20%. At the stroke of a pen – without any additional funding or new policy intervention – Ministers would be able to claim they had achieved their fuel poverty target for 2030.
“Ministers cannot tackle rural fuel poverty by simply redefining the problem. It makes no sense to appoint a task force to address the rural dimension of fuel poverty and then ignore those expert recommendations. If there is not a change of heart from the government, any claims to support rural and island proofing will ring very hollow.”