Quarter of Scottish homes are '˜stuck in fuel poverty'

More than a quarter of Scottish homes are stuck in fuel poverty despite a flagship ­government pledge to have eradicated the problem.

More than 26 per cent of Scottish households are still in fuel poverty

There has been a significant fall of almost 100,000 in the number of households which spend too much on heating in 2016, taking the total down to 649,000, about 26.5 per cent of all homes in Scotland.

But this was largely down to lower energy prices last year and these are already starting to rise again.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

The Scottish Government has already pledged to set new targets on tackling fuel poverty, where 10 per cent or more of the household income goes on heating, after admitting its plans to wipe out the problem by November last year had failed.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said yesterday that the improvement in energy performance was also a factor in last year’s fall which showed that government investment is working.

He added: “We will continue to take action across government to reduce fuel poverty in Scotland which is why we currently have a consultation on a new fuel poverty strategy – including setting new statutory targets and a revised definition of fuel poverty that will place a greater emphasis on households with lower incomes and high housing and fuel costs.”

Rural areas of Scotland fare worse with fuel poverty rates of 37 per cent, the figures show, while in social housing the rate remained at 32 per cent.

Liberal Democrat energy spokesman Liam McArthur said: “Underlying these headline figures are more troubling findings.

“Fuel poverty levels among rural and social housing, for example, offer a different story with little or no progress made over the last year. It is therefore clear we have a lot to do, not least in delivering a range of tailored solutions.”

The Liberal Democrats have previously called for a Warm Homes Bill to address the issue, but say that legislation must be “ambitious in its aims and extensive in its reach”.

Mr McArthur added: “We need to firm action to bring down and eventually eradicate fuel poverty but also details of the energy efficiency measures needed to deliver those targets.

“Ministers must also accept that there is a specific rural dimension to fuel poverty, as these latest figures illustrate. A one-size-fits-all approach to tackling this scourge simply won’t be good enough.”

Sarah Boyack, head of public affairs at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said: “While we welcome the decrease in fuel poverty levels, they still remain unacceptably high.

“It is particularly concerning that the percentage of housing association households in fuel poverty is higher than the overall national average, despite their housing being the most energy efficient.

“The figures demonstrate that social landlords need more support to further improve the energy efficiency of their stock in order to help their tenants who are on lower incomes.”