Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur has welcomed confirmation that the Scottish Government intends to take steps to ensure its Fuel Poverty Bill recognises the higher costs faced by those living in remote rural and island areas.
During the Stage 1 debate in Parliament today, the Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart indicated that he would bring forward amendments to the bill to include an ‘uplift’ to the Minimum Income Standard for rural and island communities. This reflects a change in approach by the government, after months of campaigning by Mr McArthur and a range of organisations involved in tackling fuel poverty across the Highlands & Islands.
During his remarks, Mr McArthur pointed out that when it comes to fuel poverty, rural and island areas are disproportionately affected, with Orkney having the highest proportion of households in fuel poverty and extreme fuel poverty anywhere in Scotland.
Commenting after the debate, Mr McArthur said:
“Fuel poverty blights communities across Scotland, but there is no doubt that it has a disproportionate impact on rural and island areas. Until recently, however, the Scottish Government appeared unwilling to recognise this fact or indeed the higher costs faced by those living in our rural and island communities.
“Over recent months, working with a range of organisations with a wealth of experience and expertise in tackling fuel poverty, I have made the case for the Minister, Kevin Stewart to think again. It was a case that the Local Government Committee was also persuaded to support.
“I am delighted, therefore, that the Minister has had a change of heart and committed to bring forward amendments to his bill at Stage 2 that better reflect the specific nature of fuel poverty in places like Orkney. I look forward to seeing the detail of those amendments and will work with Mr Stewart, and local stakeholders in Orkney, to make sure we get this right.
“Given the impact fuel poverty can have, not just on people’s quality of life but their physical and mental health, this bill has the potential to make a real difference. For that to happen, it must be both effective and ambitious in eradicating fuel poverty from communities across the country.”