Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) questioned the Zero Carbon Buildings Minister, Patrick Harvie, on the impact on rural and island communities of the Scottish Government's sudden decision to halt funding for oil and LPG boiler replacements.
Following the coalition deal reached between the SNP and Greens, the Scottish Government announced that as of 6 September 2021 no oil or LPG heating system replacements will be funded under the Warmer Homes Scotland scheme.
Mr McArthur highlighted how the sudden change in policy had taken place with no prior consultation, leaving constituents "in the dark" and in some cases without new boiler replacements that they were due to receive. Orkney's MSP has since revealed through parliamentary questions that no islands impact assessment was carried out before the change, despite island and rural areas having some of the highest fuel poverty levels in the country.
Responding to the publication of the Scottish Government's Heat in Buidling Strategy, Mr McArthur questioned Mr Harvie whether he would commit to "properly island-proofing" measures within the strategy and making "additional resources" available to support the deployment of low-carbon technologies in rural and island areas, where costs are higher.
Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
"Whatever the justification for this move, it is now clear it was introduced with no prior consultation or attempt to understand the potential impact on island communities. Given the high levels of fuel poverty in our islands, which are off the gas grid, this ‘oversight’ is inexcusable.
"Of course, it is essential that we reduce carbon emissions from domestic heating. This will play a key role in ensuring we meet our climate targets. As the Minister himself acknowledged, 'we need to get the just transition right for every community'.
"However, the government must ensure measures are properly island-proofed going forward. They must also ensure that the additional costs of deploying low emission technologies, particularly in island areas, is recognised and taken into account in future budgets.
"I will continue to press the Minister to ensure this happens."