New strategy fails to ignite praise from the third sector
New targets set by the Scottish Government pledge that no more than 5% of the population will live in fuel poverty by 2040.
The fuel poverty (Scotland) bill sets out a new definition of fuel poverty through the UK minimum income standard.
This classes a household as fuel poor if its fuel costs are more than 10% of the household’s income after housing costs are paid.
Ministers will also be required to publish a fuel poverty strategy as well as a progress report every five years and a report at the end of the target date.
Publishing the bill, housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Everyone in Scotland should have the right to live in a warm, comfortable home and our new target is ambitious and achievable.
“Scotland is one of only a handful of European countries to define fuel poverty, let alone set a goal to eradicate it. Achieving the target will place Scotland amongst the very best in the world in terms of tackling fuel poverty.”
However third sector groups said they were unconvinced by the ambitious target.
Sarah Boyack, head of public affairs at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said the bill was welcome but it lacks ambition.
She added: “We believe that proposals in the new bill do not go far enough and that more must be done to invest in energy efficiency and to provide affordable warmth. We are also concerned that fuel poverty levels in rural areas will be underestimated when a new method to measure fuel poverty is introduced.
“Our members are ideally placed to lead on programmes to tackle fuel poverty but need the long term support to do this – we are therefore calling for a time based target to end fuel and for housing associations to have access to funds to improve home energy efficiency.”
Craig Salter, Citizens Advice Scotland’s energy spokesman, also feared the plans lacked ambition and called for a new definition of fuel poverty.
He said: “It is disappointing that the government has not included the recommendation of an enhanced minimum income standard for people in remote rural areas, who often find it harder to afford their energy bills due to higher living costs.
“A new definition of fuel poverty should take this into account to ensure that it reflects the needs of these households.
“There is a real need for additional financial support to address rising energy costs and low incomes.”