Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, today (Friday) reiterated the need for more significant resources and ambition from UK and Scottish Governments in efforts to combat fuel poverty.
Speaking during a cross-party panel discussion on the final day of Energy Action Scotland annual conference, Mr McArthur insisted there was a need to accelerate the roll out of energy efficiency measures and the installation of low carbon heating systems, but also take action in the short term to offset massive rises in energy bills expected next month and again later in the year.
Orkney's MSP also emphasised the rural and islands dimension to fuel poverty and called for those areas worst-affected areas to be treated as a priority. He praised the work of organisations providing advice and support to vulnerable households and claimed this role would be all the more important in the midst of an energy and cost of living crisis.
Commenting after the event, Mr McArthur said:
"Energy Action Scotland has led the way in making the case over the years for concerted, wide-ranging and ambitious action to tackle the scourge of fuel poverty. As the number of households who find themselves in fuel poverty and extreme fuel poverty continues to rise, EAS are right to make clear that both the UK and Scottish Governments are not doing enough to match the scale and urgency of the challenge.
"In the short term, we need to see the UK Government come forward with a package of measures that does not simply load up households with more debt. Through reductions in VAT, ditching the planned National Insurance rise and more extensive support through the Warm Homes Discount, there is scope to ease the burden on hard-pressed and vulnerable households.
"The Scottish Government too must pick up the pace on energy efficiency and decarbonising heating. For all the targets and standards set, Scotland is currently way behind where we need to be. Ministers must now put their money where their mouth is if we are to achieve our longer-term ambitions of eradicating fuel poverty and cutting emissions.
"There are particular challenges, of course, in rural and island areas, where levels of fuel poverty and extreme fuel poverty continue to outstrip those in other parts of the country. I believe it is vital that early action is target at those areas worst affected, but also that flexibility is built into national schemes and programmes to allow for a more tailored approach. This is undoubtedly the most effective way to find solutions that meet local circumstances but also achieve our nationwide objectives.
"At such a difficult time for so many households, it's also crucial to ensure the public has access to information, advice and support. Local advice organisations such as THAW Orkney carry out vital work supporting vulnerable people in local communities. In order to be able to do the work they do, and step up to meet the challenges ahead, these organisations need greater certainty over future funding from local, Scottish and UK Governments."