About 650,000 homes, just over a quarter of all Scottish households are classed as being in fuel poverty. This means over 10 per cent of their income goes on heating bills.
New laws are currently going through Holyrood which would introduce a flagship target of bringing this down to 5 per cent by 2040 with the Scottish Government forced to set out a national strategy for achieving this within a year.
The Fuel Poverty Bill is currently being scrutinised by MSPs on Holyrood’s communities bill who will take evidence from Liz Marquis, director of the Energy Agency. The body warns in submission that the proposed legislation doesn’t go far enough.
“We fear that the scope is too narrow and misses a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to tackle energy inefficiency as well and end the scandal of Scotland’s cold, damp homes,” it states.
Labour is now calling for fuel poverty to be eradicated completely within the 2040 timeframe and more support provided for rural communities.
The party is today launching a Christmas campaign on fuel poverty with members and activists will distribute postcards throughout the festive season highlighting the issue.
Labour’s equalities spokeswoman Pauline McNeill said: “Scotland is an energy-rich country, yet over a quarter of households in Scotland are in fuel poverty.
“In 2002, the last Labour-led Scottish government set a target to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016, but years of inaction from the SNP means that target was missed.
“In the run-up to Christmas, Labour will be highlighting our plans to ensure everyone has access to a warm home with affordable energy bills.
“The next Labour governments at Holyrood and Westminster will take action to end the scandal of fuel poverty.”
There are also concerns about the damaging effects of fuel poverty on people’s health. Illnesses such as flu, heart disease, and strokes are exacerbated by cold, and cold homes can promote the growth of fungi and number of dust mites – often linked to asthma. There is also a link between fuel poverty and increased winter deaths.
The UK has the second-worst rate of excess winter deaths in Europe with over 3,000 deaths each year caused by people not being able to afford to heat their homes.