Scottish Warm Homes Act would tackle fuel poverty
Kezia Dugdale, the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, has promised action on fuel poverty if her party wins the Holyrood election in May.
Ms Dugdale criticised the current Scottish government's "short-sighted decision" to cut funding for energy efficiency programmes by £15 million, and said that if she becomes first minister, Labour would bring in a "ground-breaking" Scottish Warm Homes Act, which would "deliver the changes we need to see in planning and building regulations to tackle fuel poverty".
Speaking about the issue before addressing Labour Party members in Inverness, Ms Dugdale said that no family in Scotland should have to choose between heating and eating.
She believes that the SNP government will miss the target to abolish fuel poverty by 2016, adding that budget cuts to reduce spending on tackling fuel poverty would be "devastating for low income families and pensioners in Inverness and all across Scotland".
Currently, more than half of all pensioners live in fuel poverty, while 20 per cent of families also live with the worry of being unable to afford their heating bills.
"This is an incredibly short-sighted decision from the SNP that will hurt the incomes and health of vulnerable people across Scotland," Ms Dugdale said.
However, she noted that new powers coming to Scotland will give the nation the chance to do things differently. "After a decade in office and with a majority in Parliament, there are no excuses for the SNP failing to deal with fuel poverty," she added.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said it is "committed to eradicating fuel poverty and has allocated over half a billion pounds since 2009 on a raft of measures to help people in Scotland heat their homes affordably".
She said that the final budget for 2015/16 was £119 million. That included £15 million in consequential funding from the UK government, which was used for the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes Scotland: Cashback scheme. However, the UK government ended its equivalent scheme, which meant that £15 million was dropped without prior warning.
"Tackling fuel poverty is a priority for us and last week we announced details of £14 million to begin piloting new approaches for Scotland's Energy Efficiency Programme," she said.