McArthur raises island concerns as parliament debates fuel poverty

Liam McArthur MSP.
Liam McArthur MSP.

Calls for a fresh approach to fuel poverty, a subject which affects many homes in Orkney, were made in Scottish Parliament yesterday.

National statistics published last month showed that more than one-in-three households remain in fuel poverty and one-in-ten in extreme fuel poverty.

According to the Scottish Housing statistics survey 2011-2013, Orkney has the second highest rate of fuel poverty in the country, just behind the Western Isles. Fifty two per cent of homes in Orkney are in fuel poverty and twenty eight per cent of homes are in extreme fuel poverty.

The Scottish Government currently has a set target of eradicating fuel poverty in the county by November 2016

A motion moved by colleagues of Orkney MSP Liam McArthur demanded that proposed cuts to fuel poverty programmes in the draft 2016-17 budget are reversed. It also called on Ministers to revise the 2016 fuel poverty target, examine whether its definition of fuel poverty needs to be updated and commit to additional measures to lift people out of fuel poverty.

It was the first dedicated fuel poverty debate by the full parliament since April 2014.

Commenting after the debate, Orkney’s MSP said: “Earlier this month, I challenged Scottish Ministers to accept the need to revise their target to eradicate fuel poverty by the end of this year. All the evidence shows that this will not be met and everyone, except the government, now acknowledges that a revised strategy and target are needed.

“Sadly, the Scottish Government appears determined to stick to its guns. This is disappointing, not least given the cut in fuel poverty spending by 13 per cent proposed by Ministers for next year. This move will only make a difficult situation worse.

“We need the government to revise its strategy. In Orkney, where the situation is particularly serious, we also need as much flexibility as possible to tailor measures appropriately. The partnership approach that has been adopted locally has the potential to work. It must be funded sufficiently, however, if it is to make progress in tackling the scourge of fuel poverty in our community”.