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Banned…Andy's brand new boiler

The Scottish Government claim that its ban on peat, oil, coal, gas and wood-based heating systems is not actually a ban, has been rejected by campaigning scientist and writer Andy Wightman.

Writing on Twitter/X and in Holyrood Magazine, the former MSP said that all the consultations on the new rules for new builds had demonstrated a need for exemptions and variations for rural areas. But the SNP/Green government ignored this feedback.

Andy Wightman explained how he was one of those caught by the sudden change of regulations.

“I am trying to build a house and am pleased that the heat engineering assessment has scored it B (90) for energy efficiency and A for Co2 emissions impact .

“However, the new-build heat standard has stopped all my plans in their tracks

“The principal heating source is a log gasification boiler - a very efficient (>90%) boiler that burns logs via a gasification process heating a v large accumulator tank which stores hot water for 2-3 days.

“The boiler only needs to be fired up every 1-3 days for a ‘batch’ burn.

“I have planning consent. I even have a grant and loan offer from Scottish Ministers for the boiler.

“However, for technical reasons, I have not yet applied for a building warrant.

"When I do, it will, as a matter of law, now be refused.

“The thinnings which I planned to use from forest will now rot on the forest floor as there is no economic market for them.

“I am vegan, I drive an electric car, I don’t fly, I live much of the time off grid with solar power and wood fuel. I am pretty green, but obviously not the right kind of green. This blanket ban is really silly. “

Andy Wightman points out that, in response to protests  from across rural Scotland in recent weeks, ministers were at pains to claim this was not, in fact, a ban.

“Why? Because, according to the Scottish Government, they can still be installed in new homes to provide emergency heating. The government claims that this concession ‘recognises the unique needs of Scotland’s rural communities’.

“The problem with this sophistry is that the Building (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2023 define emergency heating as an installation to be used only in the event of the failure of the main heating system.

“So people can install wood-burning stoves at a cost of anything between £5,000 and £10,000 to be used for a few days per year and, therefore, it’s not a ban.

“What is right for Perth or Glasgow is not necessarily right for the Isle of Eigg, whose future housing plans depend on biomass as they are not on the national grid, or an off-grid house in Galloway.

“Wood for energy does need to be restricted. We should not be importing biomass from abroad, for example; forests should not be managed solely for wood fuel; and for health reasons they should be banned completely in built-up areas. 

"But there is widespread agreement that we need to expand our forest resource and there is a large and local supply of wood produced from thinning out forests or brash from felling operations that can be used sustainably for heating homes. It is an important part of the forest economy in many parts of rural Scotland."

Former MSP Andy Wightman is a writer, researcher, analyst, commentator and activist on issues of land, power, governance, democracy and money. Over the past decades, he has undertaken a wide range of work on land tenure, landownership, land reform and, more recently community land rights, governance and the hegemonic dimensions of land relations.  He studied forestry at Aberdeen University and spent some time working as an environmental scientist before becoming self-employed in 1992.