Calls for action on Scottish rural fuel poverty

Energy Action Scotland director Norman Kerr said that living in more isolated parts of the country could 'add significantly to people's cost of living'. Picture: PA

Energy Action Scotland director Norman Kerr said that living in more isolated parts of the country could 'add significantly to people's cost of living'. Picture: PA

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MUCH MORE effort is needed to tackle the problem of fuel poverty in Scotland’s remote and rural communities, campaigners have demanded.

Energy Action Scotland director Norman Kerr said that living in more isolated parts of the country could “add significantly to people’s cost of living”, with many families in such areas living in homes that are not connected to mains gas and are more difficult to insulate effectively.

He spoke out as a conference organised by the charity looking at the problem of fuel poverty was getting under way.

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The event, in Coylumbridge, near Aviemore, will be addressed by Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess, who said: “Fuel poverty remains a huge concern for the Scottish Government, and I am delighted to open this year’s Energy Action Scotland conference, which provides an opportunity for a range of organisations to come together to seek solutions to this important issue.

“It is a scandal that there should be any fuel poverty in a country as energy-rich as Scotland, with over 27% of households affected. The Government is aware that customers in rural and remote areas face some of the highest energy prices in the country, and we are doing all we can with the powers we currently have to address this.

“We are providing £79 million funding this year for our home energy efficiency programmes to help people manage their fuel bills better and give them warmer homes. And as part of this, some of our most remote areas are receiving over £5 million more in funding than they did last year.”

She also pledged ministers would “continue to work with councils and energy companies to ensure that Scotland gets its fair share of funding for home energy efficiency”.

Mr Kerr said: “It has been shown that living in remote and rural areas can add significantly to people’s cost of living. Rural homes are often off the mains gas grid and so are dependent on other forms of fuel and can be hard to treat when it comes to fitting insulation. Rural fuel poverty is a problem that needs much more effort to solve.

“Too many people across the country live today in fuel poverty. It is essential that everyone who faces living in a cold home and who can’t afford their fuel bills can get much-needed assistance wherever they live.”

A range of agencies, charities and companies from across the country will come together at the two-day conference to discuss solutions to cold, damp homes.

Tony Keeling, director of customer services and sales at energy firm SSE, is also among those who will be at the event. He stressed: “SSE takes seriously its commitment to its customers and is acutely aware of the pressures that rising energy bills can have on households. It continues to work hard to keep energy bills as low as possible for as long as possible. We have demonstrated this recently by our promise to freeze prices until January 2016.”

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