McArthur: Ministers must address growing gap between rural and urban fuel poverty

Scottish Liberal Democrat energy spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today warned SNP ministers that they must not “re-define away” fuel poverty rather than address the underlying issues as new figures showed that 1 in 4 households were fuel poor last year.

The first data releases from the Scottish House Condition Survey 2017 showed “no real change” with 24.9% of households (613,000) fuel poor and 7.0% (174,000) living in extreme fuel poverty.

The report also highlighted a widening gap between rural and urban Scotland, as fuel poverty now exists at twice the rate in rural areas.

Mr McArthur, whose Orkney constituency has the highest levels of fuel poverty and extreme fuel poverty in the country, said:

“Fuel poverty levels remain stubbornly high in communities throughout Scotland but these statistics also show a growing urban-rural divide.

“This worrying trend reinforces the case for including a rural Minimum Income Standard in the government’s fuel poverty bill.  As the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force recognised, this is the only way of ensuring that the higher costs of living in rural, remote and island areas is reflected in the criteria for support.

“By ignoring this recommendation, ministers risk redefining away fuel poverty in rural and island areas, leaving many families and households to languish in fuel poverty.

“That is inexcusable, not least given the recognised health impacts of fuel poverty”.

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