Scottish Labour urges new target for tackling fuel poverty
After the Scottish government failed to meet its commitment to eradicate fuel poverty across Scotland by November 2016, the Scottish Labour party has called for a new target.
The Scottish government's goal was a challenging one, but with more than one-third of Scottish homes (35 per cent) still struggling with fuel poverty, there's still a huge amount of work to be done.
Currently, fuel poverty is defined in Scotland as households that spend 10 per cent or more of their income on heating, although critics of the definition say that it is outdated - especially considering how fast housing costs have gone up compared to incomes. Almost half of those affected by fuel poverty in Scotland are pensioners.
Alex Rowley, deputy leader of Scottish Labour, called the failure to hit the target a "source of regret". He accused the Scottish government of not investing enough to meet the commitment, but admitted there had been progress. However, to keep up momentum, a new target needs to be set.
He has also suggested that the government should introduce energy efficiency standards for the private rented housing sector in Scotland. This is similar to requirements that are set to come into effect soon in England and Wales, make it illegal for a property to be rented out if they have a poor Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating. The EPC looks at a variety of factors, such as thermal wall insulation, boilers and windows to determine how efficient a dwelling is, and provides recommendations for improvements.
Establishing a minimum level for all rented properties would mean that all tenants - whether in private housing or public - would have adequate accommodation.
"It cannot be right that on a scale of zero to ten, the energy efficiency on average in a council housing association house is 7.5 whilst in the private sector let it is two or three," he said.
Mr Rowley also called for the creation of a Warm Homes Act, more public control of energy provision and more help to find cheaper tariffs for people who are vulnerable to fuel poverty.