Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has warned Scottish Ministers that current building regulations risk making fuel poverty levels in the islands worse.
Mr McArthur, speaking during a debate on affordable housing in parliament this afternoon, called on the Scottish Government to use its forthcoming Islands Bill to address the problem by allowing greater flexibility to meet specific island needs.
At present, Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) rules mean that new houses in Orkney are often built using less insulation than they should. The SAP rules, applicable across the country, penalise developers for using mains electricity as a primary fuel source. While renewable heating systems are installed to obtain a SAP ‘pass’, the effect can be that insulation levels are compromised and running costs are higher.
Speaking with Mr McArthur this week, one constituent described the current system as “forcing a fuel poverty legacy to be designed into every new home.”
Commenting on the situation after the debate, Mr McArthur said:
“More households in Orkney spend over 20% of their monthly income on heating than almost anywhere else in the country. There are many reasons for this including longer, harsher winters, no mains gas option and more hard to heat properties.
“It is all the more disappointing, therefore, to hear that a one-size-fits-all approach to regulating the building of new homes may be making the situation worse.
“Everyone knows that the cheapest unit of energy is the one not used. That is why we should be ensuring that insulation and other measures that reduce the need for energy are given priority. It appears that this is not happening at present.
“While the current approach may be appropriate in some parts of the country, there is growing evidence that it is too inflexible to meet the needs of our islands.
“Ministers have promised that the forthcoming Islands Bill will lead to ‘island proofing’ of legislation and regulations. This would seem to be an ideal issue on which to get that ball rolling. If changes are not included in the government’s bill, I will certainly be looking to table amendments”.