MSP for Caithness, Sutherland & Ross, Maree Todd (pictured), attended Sutherland’s Fuel Poverty Summit on Friday [8 October], hosted by Sutherland Community Partnership.
Industry representatives and government bodies such as Home Energy Scotland and Warmer Homes Scotland were in attendance, alongside local elected representatives and Kate Forbes, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy.
The summit was due to take place in Lairg but was moved online due to Covid-19.
Commenting, Maree Todd MSP said:
“It was fantastic to see such a great turnout for Sutherland’s Fuel Poverty Summit, with over 70 in attendance.
“I’m grateful to Sutherland Community Partnership for organising such an informative event and for bringing representatives from across the board together to discuss the issue of fuel poverty.
“Given the recent surge in energy prices throughout the UK and the subsequent impact of this on the most vulnerable in our society, this issue is very topical right now.
“As the MSP for the most northern and likely, coldest, constituency in mainland Scotland, I know the rural areas I represent will be feeling the impact.
“This is supported by the latest government figures, which show that 19% of all households in remote and rural areas are living in extreme fuel poverty, compared to 11% in urban areas.
“Firstly, we know that the drivers of fuel poverty are high energy prices, low net household incomes, poor home energy efficiency and the way people use energy in their homes.
“Whilst much of the legislation surrounding energy costing is reserved to Westminster, the area which the Scottish Government has greatest influence over is energy efficiency.
“Right now, our homes and workplaces account for around a fifth of Scotland’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
“The Scottish Government’s vision is that by 2045, we will have a modern, integrated, low carbon energy system that delivers reliable supplies of energy at affordable prices to consumers -eradicating poor energy performance as a root cause of fuel poverty.
“Achieving this will be no small feat – especially in the Highlands – as many zero emissions heating systems are more costly to install and can be more expensive to run than high emissions alternatives.
“However, I’m reassured by the Scottish Government’s acknowledgement of the spending challenges remote and rural areas face when it comes to this, where our installation and labour costs are much greater.
“This recognition will filter into legislative policy, levelling the playing field and putting the Highlands on equal footing with the rest of Scotland.”
The event fittingly fell on ‘Challenge Poverty Week’.
Commenting, Maree Todd said:
“It is the responsibility of all Governments—including the Scottish Government—to support people through the tough winter months ahead.
“Without government intervention, many families will be forced to decide between eating or heating their homes this winter.
“Where issues are reserved to the UK Government, as many of the energy cost issues are, it is vital that the UK Government do everything that it can to help.
“However, instead of challenging poverty last week, the UK Government chose to enable it by making the biggest overnight cut to welfare in 70 years, slashing Universal Credit by £20 a week.
“This cruel and frankly, reckless, decision is devastating to the nearly 17,000 households in the Highlands who are in receipt of the benefit.”