McArthur wins assurances from Scottish Government to improve zero-carbon heating schemes

3 Aug 2023

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has secured a commitment from Zero Carbon Buildings Minister, Patrick Harvie, to move towards including air-to-air heat pumps in support schemes to decarbonise Scotland’s homes.

Air-to-air heat pumps, which provide highly efficient low-carbon heating by drawing latent heat from outside air to directly warm the air inside a building, are currently ineligible for support under Scottish Government schemes designed to help people decarbonise heat in their homes and reduce energy bills.

This is despite the fact that similar air-to-water heating systems are eligible, and their uptake encouraged by the Scottish Government, while a Scottish Government-commissioned report concluded that air-to-air systems are cheaper to install and have clear advantages over other low-carbon heating systems in certain circumstances.

Responses to a series of Parliamentary Questions and freedom of information requests lodged by Mr McArthur indicated that officials had not previously explored making air to air systems eligible for support and struggled to justify their exclusion.

After raising this with the Minister, Mr McArthur received a response committing the government to considering the inclusion of air-to-air heat pumps in support schemes, pending appropriate certification. MCS, the certification body for low-carbon technologies, have now confirmed to Orkney’s MSP that they expect to conclude work on accrediting air-to-air systems before the end of the year.

Commenting on this outcome, Mr McArthur said:

“The fact is this technology works, often more effectively than other systems in some areas, and has a proven track record in island communities such as Orkney. Given the challenges we face in decarbonising homes across Scotland, excluding air-to-air systems from funding support made little sense and actively penalised islanders who found this to be the best option in their circumstances.

“After the issue was raised with me by constituents, I have been lobbying the Scottish Government to rethink its policy. I am delighted, therefore, that the Minister now recognises the value of air-to-air heat pump systems, and welcome confirmation from MCS that they will be accrediting air-to-air pumps to allow them to be included in future support.

“I hope this process can be completed before the end of the year and have written again to Patrick Harvie seeking details on the expected timeframes. However, I believe this is an important step forward in efforts to bring down the costs of people heating their homes while also reducing emissions.”