Scottish fuel poverty increases

From today's Herald:

The Westminster Government’s annual fuel poverty statistics, unveiled yesterday, show more than a quarter of Scotland’s 2.5 million households living in fuel poverty. The pressure group Energy Action Scotland predicts that following the big rises in gas and electricity prices announced recently, well over a third of Scots households will be fuel poor (defined as spending more than 10% of their income keeping warm) this winter.

Each year Scotland has around 2000 excess winter deaths, the number that cannot be accounted for by normal seasonal fluctuations. In Scandinavia, the figure is close to zero, thanks largely to super-insulated homes. (A pensioner paying only £300 a year for energy is less vulnerable to a 20% price hike.) Yet in Scotland we continue to suffer from some of the worst insulated housing stock in Europe. A major factor is the third of homes that are not suitable for cavity wall insulation, including sandstone and granite tenement blocks.

Thanks to the Greens, the Scottish Government is distributing £48m a year in Energy Assistance Packages to vulnerable groups but the demand is so high that the scheme is not advertised.

Meanwhile the UK Government’s Warm Home Discount, which is replacing social tariffs, is restricted mainly to those on pension credit. Apart from the fact that it barely replaces the £100 cut in the winter fuel allowance, it is not available to other vulnerable groups, such as the low-paid, those on benefits and the disabled. Also, because it is a flat rate £120 throughout the country, it discriminates against Scotland. (The average annual bill is £120 higher in Greenock and £300 higher in Inverness than in Bristol.)

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EDINBURGH COALITION AGAINST POVERTY is based at the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh (ACE), an open campaign space & infoshop providing resources and solidarity. Resources available include free computer/internet access, cheap copying, free leaflets, books, pamphlets and mags for sale, and a library. Every Tuesday from 12 to 3pm support and solidarity is available for benefits, debt hassles, housing and other problems. Please contact us at Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty c/o ACE, 17 West Montgomery Place, Edinburgh EH7 5HA, 0131 557 6242 or ecap@lists.riseup.net. We invite you to join our solidarity phone tree and get involved. ACE is also open at other times for particular events (but the support and solidarity sessions are only on Tuesday).