SNP blames Westminster cuts for falling behind on green heating ambition

Drew Hendry. Picture: AlamyDrew Hendry. Picture: Alamy
Drew Hendry. Picture: Alamy
Drew Hendry said less money means ‘less can be done’

The SNP has blamed Westminster cuts after concerns were raised that Scotland is falling behind on its ambition to phase out fossil fuel heating in homes.

Drew Hendry, the party’s economy spokesman in the Commons, said less money means “less can be done”.

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Scotland’s auditor general, Stephen Boyle, recently warned the move to green heating will fail unless the Scottish Government significantly scales up the pace.

Audit Scotland’s report scrutinised the plans to reduce emissions by 2045, which could require most households to change their heating systems.

Mr Boyle warned of “significant risks” in the target to move households to low carbon heating.

It is estimated that the Heat in Buildings Strategy, introduced in 2021, could cost £33 billion to the public sector, businesses and households. The Scottish Government has currently committed to £1.8 billion of public money in this parliamentary term.

Under the strategy, clean heating system installations would need to reach a total of 124,000 between 2021 and 2026 – almost 25,000 a year – and would have to peak at more than 200,000 annually towards the end of the decade.

However, current installation rates are well below this. Only about 5,000 heat pumps were installed in 2022.

The Scottish Government has since said its target of decarbonising heating in more than one million homes by 2030 is no longer possible.

During an interview on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Mr Hendry was asked why the Scottish Government was “miles off” its initial target. He said: “You saw with the last autumn statement and then the Finance Bill, the Chancellor cut £19 billion from the public sector funding.

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"We set a target based on the fact that you look to get an equitable redistribution of funds from UK Government decisions. What the UK Government has done is cut budgets.”

He said it was “very much down to money”, adding: “Money has been cut from the Scottish Budget.”

Mr Hendry said: “If the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt does further tax cuts in the forthcoming Budget statement, then it looks like he’ll be raiding the public purse even further to do that. Less money in the economy, less money for settlements, means less can be done, and that’s the reality of the decisions that are being taken in Westminster at the moment.”

The Audit Scotland report, published on Thursday, said: “The scale of the challenge of reducing emissions from heating homes is huge and there are several risks to success. Unless the scale and pace of activity significantly increase, the Scottish Government’s ambition will not be met.”

Mr Boyle said: “Getting most households in Scotland to change to low carbon heating systems is a huge challenge. It is complex and relies upon a range of stakeholders and partners, including the public, the private sector and the UK Government.

“The Scottish Government now needs to carefully consider how to maximise its public spending and set out a clear delivery plan. It also needs to help the private sector to roll out funding deals that will support people to change how they heat their homes.”



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