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Government in Scotland needs to remember the rural areas are quite different  from cities…it's no good imposing policies that suit the Central Belt on the sparsely populated Highland and Islands.

Scottish Land & Estates, the rural business organisation, has once again called for better ‘rural-proofing’ of policies in the wake of the debacle this week over a ban on wood-burning stoves in new homes.

They say rural communities are supportive of the need to improve energy efficiency and lower emissions – but the Scottish Government needs to engage better with rural Scotland on its policymaking.

The Scottish Government is now saying there's no ‘ban’ being put in place, as stoves can still be installed in new homes for emergency purposes. However, it seems peat burning stoves in new homes would be banned, in practice. 

SLE, whose members provide homes for around 13,000 families across rural Scotland, said a lack of effective communication and understanding of rural communities from government was creating ‘unbridled frustration’ across the country.

Anna Gardiner, Policy Adviser (Rural Property) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The premise of improving energy efficiency and lowering emissions is widely supported, including by rural communities. We recognise that there is a real need to address climate change. However, this needs a carefully thought out plan which joins up many elements involved in heating buildings. This is particularly true in rural communitiies where energy needs and energy availability differ from an urban context.

“For many people living in Scotland’s rural and island communities, wood burners are the cheapest, most efficient way to warm their homes because of a ready supply of local timber. The gas grid present in cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow does not exist in many rural settings.

“We do not believe a ban on installing wood-burning stoves in new rural homes is suitable at present. There may be a later time when changes to legislation becomes more acceptable but both electricity transmission and clean heat technology would need to improve significantly before that – and the Scottish Government should properly engage with rural communities who are most affected.”

Scottish Land & Estates added that it had received a flood of member queries seeking clarification on the new rules as the Scottish Government’s communications were muddled in the midst of attempts to quell media criticism on the issue.

Anna added: “A ban on wood burning stoves being fitted as the main source of heat in new homes came into effect from April 1. The government has stated that the only way they can be fitted is for use in an emergency and that requires an exemption.

“Homes which already have wood-burning stoves can continue to use them as previously.

“Existing dwellings can still fit wood-burning stoves but a government consultation has recently taken views on proposals for a new heat in buildings standard which may change this in the future.

“The Scottish Government must do more to understand that the way they communicate policy to the public affects rural communities. There is unbridled frustration at government decision-making and communications which in turn leads to disengagement on important matters which affect people’s lives.  We have repeatedly called for ‘rural proofing’ of policy, but it also remains the case that once a policy is being implemented, the government needs to properly explain what it means for rural Scotland and take ownership of it - even when it is unpopular.”