Rural Scots could face further cost-of-living hardships in government's green heating drive, opponents warn

Scots living in the most remote areas are being used as “guinea pigs” in the Scottish Government’s drive to hit national climate targets, according to Scotland’s shadow secretary for social justice and housing.

Conservative MSP for Lothian Miles Briggs says plans to ban fossil fuels such as oil for heating could see households in the Highlands and Islands and other places which are off the gas grid pushed further into fuel poverty and stoke the cost-of-living crisis.

He says these people, who already face the highest costs for fuel, goods and services, will be hit hardest in the move to net zero emissions and restricting future energy options for rural homes could see them losing faith in the “green agenda”.

He recently hosted a cross-party roundtable meeting to examine the potential for LPG (liquid petroleum gas), which is currently not supported in the heat strategy, as a viable fuel option that is greener than traditional domestic oil and much cheaper to install than electric heat pumps.

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In a letter to the Scottish Government, the group – which included, Mr Briggs and fellow Conservatives Murdo Fraser and Liam Kerr, Scottish Labour’s Foysol Choudry and Liam McArthur of the LibDems – wrote: “While we understand the rationale for ending public subsidy for fossil fuel heating systems, this decision does not account for the specific challenges off-grid communities will face during this transition.”

The letter acknowledged the “significant challenges associated with decarbonising off-gas-grid domestic and non-domestic properties”, but said there were “opportunities and potential solutions that need to be explored”.

Responding, Green MSP Patrick Harvie, Scotland’s minister for zero carbon buildings, said the Scottish Government “has no current plans to provide financial support” for bioLPG, the greenest version of LPG, highlighting a range of support mechanisms available to households through Home Energy Scotland – including interest-free loans and cashback offerings.

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Scottish Conservative MSP for Lothian Miles Briggs, shadow secretary for social justice and housing, is backing a drive to see liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and its renewable alternative included in the supported options for rural homes when moving away from traditional fossil fuel energy sources

LibDem MSP for Shetland Beatrice Wishart, who was invited to join the roundtable, has dismissed the proposal to promote LPG, which she says will not ultimately lower bills or help to achieve climate targets

She insists well designed community energy schemes powered by renewable sources provide the best solutions – with a district network in Lerwick that powers public buildings such as schools and the hospital proving highly successful on both efficiency and cost.

“We need more of these types of schemes,” she said.

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“We need security of energy supply, not to be held to ransom by the ‘big six’.

People – not unreasonably – feel very angry when they see the chief executives of these firms getting eye-watering salaries while they are struggling to just survive.”

Around 14 per cent of households in Scotland, around 366,000, are not connected to the gas mains.

The main fuel sources for domestic and commercial heating in these areas are oil, electricity and solid fuel such as coal and wood.

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To meet Scottish and UK climate targets, properties using solid fuels or oil heating need to shift to lower-carbon alternatives.

A spokesman for membership organisation Liquid Gas UK, said: “LPG is a clean-burning, smoke-free fuel, offering an affordable alternative energy source for heating and cooking for off-grid homes and businesses.”

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