Last week, 10th Dec. 2018, Tighean Innse Gall (TIG) hosted members of the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee as they took evidence from householders in the Western Isles, regarding Fuel Poverty and how it affects their lives.

With the Scottish Government introducing a Bill incorporating proposed changes to the definition of Fuel Poverty, the committee were keen to understand what impact the Bill, if enacted in its current form, may have in a remote rural setting. The committee were also eager to discover how the Government’s proposed strategy might be delivered and in particular how local and trusted organisations like TIG could assist through the vital work they do.

On Thursday night the committee representatives spoke with eight clients in an informal question and answer format to find out what the local drivers of fuel poverty were and how TIG had helped the householders address them. Some clients had received assistance through various measures delivered by the insulation department while others had taken advantage of in depth energy advice. The committee was interested to find out how effective Government schemes had been and what the barriers were in their delivery. To this end, TIG staff accompanied by our CEO gave the committee representatives a brief tour of the Island. They took advantage of the opportunity to meet a number of clients who had received improvement measures, in their homes. The very poor weather during the tour brought home to the members, just how harsh the climate can be and the real differences well delivered energy efficiency works and advice can make.

Stewart Wilson commented: “Hosting the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee was a real pleasure. The committee, while taking evidence from clients, were genuinely drilling down into how people are really affected by Fuel poverty and what the policy response should be. They also saw how the proposed new Fuel Poverty definition will affect the way we work given island demographics and house types. We were pleased they seemed sympathetic to our concerns regarding the additional cost of living, due to the remoteness of our islands and the importance that people experiencing real difficulty with heating their homes are not simply defined out of Fuel poverty, leaving them unable to receive assistance from reshaped Government schemes.”

The comment should be attributed to Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee, James Dornan MSP commented: “As the Local Government and Communities Committee, it’s really important that we hear from a wide range of people across Scotland – particularly on new laws that will impact all of us. That’s why our Committee was very keen to hear directly from communities in the Western Isles to find out more about their experiences of fuel poverty and how these may differ to those living in urban areas.

"In the evidence we’ve received, we heard that people who live in island and rural communities can experience more extreme cases of fuel poverty because incomes overall are lower and living costs are higher.

"We would like to thank those who took the time to meet with us in the Western Isles. Our focus groups and visits will help to shape our work in examining the Bill, and whether it should be improved to help tackle and eradiate fuel poverty in the future.”

Published 17/12/2018