Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur today successfully amended the government’s Fuel Poverty Bill to ensure it takes account of the specific needs of island communities.
Working with members of parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee, Mr McArthur secured support for a rural ‘uplift’ in the Minimum Income Standard used to determine households that are in fuel poverty and in need of support. Mr McArthur’s amendments, voted through unanimously at the Committee this morning, will also ensure a further ‘uplift’ for island areas, reflecting the higher costs faced by islanders compared to their counterparts in rural mainland Scotland.
In moving his amendments, Mr McArthur reminded the Committee that while fuel poverty affects all parts of the country, the evidence shows that rural and island areas are impacted disproportionately. According to government figures, for example, Orkney remains the area worst-affected by fuel poverty, with around two thirds of households estimated to be paying ten per cent or more of income on heating.
After months of negotiation with the Scottish Government, and working closely with MSPs from all parties on the Local Government Committee, Mr McArthur was delighted to see his amendments voted through unanimously this morning during the Committee’s Stage 2 scrutiny of the bill.
Commenting after the meeting, Mr McArthur said:
“The flagship commitment of the Islands Act was to ensure that legislation and policy is ‘island proofed’, taking into account the specific needs and circumstances of island communities. Today we saw that principle put into action in a small but important way.
“When the Scottish Government first published its bill last summer, it failed to reflect the rural and island dimension to fuel poverty. It also ignored the firm recommendation from its own Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force, which had called for the increased costs of living in rural and islands areas to be taken into account in any definition of fuel poverty.
“Over the last year, however, working closely with members of the Local Government Committee and the Housing Minister, I sought to make the case for robust island and rural proofing of the legislation. I am delighted that this has proved successful, in particular the recognition now in the bill of the additional costs faced by islanders.
“Building that case, however, was only possible thanks to the evidence provided by various individuals and organisations in Orkney and across the Highlands & Islands, whose expertise on this issue was invaluable. I am enormously grateful to them for their input and their perseverance.
“Passing this legislation will not, in itself, bring an end to the scourge of fuel poverty. Hopefully, however, it will allow resources to be targeted where they are most needed and flexibility in the approaches taken to meet local circumstances.”.
Notes to Editors:
You can find the amendments here on page 4.