Rural Scots ‘forgotten’ in Chancellor’s energy cut programme, says Labor

Scots living in rural homes are facing a ‘tsunami of poverty’ amid rising heating costs, as Scottish Labor demands clarification on energy rebates for ‘off-grid’ properties.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a package of measures to help tackle the cost of living crisis, including a £400 energy bill rebate in October for every household in the UK.

But Scottish Labor has warned that people living in off-grid properties are being given little clarity about their eligibility for the energy bill support grant.

It is estimated that around 417,000 (17%) of Scottish homes are off-grid and 217,000 use fuels other than town gas or electricity to heat their homes.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced financial support for the cost of living for UK residents. (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The UK government’s support plans did not mention off-grid households or how those without prepaid meters or customers without debit and credit will benefit.

Some 28% of rural households use fuel oil as their main source of heating and homes in hard-to-reach parts of Scotland are often off-grid, including properties in Shetland and Orkney.

According to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the cost of fuel oil rose by more than £500 per 1,000 liters from April 2021 to April 2022 – one of the biggest price increases in the ONS report from This year.

Rhoda Grant, Scottish Labor MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said rural communities are the “forgotten victims” of the cost of living crisis.

She said: “People living in rural homes have been completely forgotten by this government. Although the Tory Chancellor did his best to copy Labour’s plans to tackle the cost of living crisis, they failed to include our safeguards for off-grid homes.

“The increase in the cost of fuel oil is one of the largest price increases in ONS statistics. This has a direct impact on people living off the grid and yet we have seen no substantial aid package from the SNP or the Tories.

“Even in the Scottish Conservative leader’s own constituency (Moray), off-grid homes are facing destitution due to soaring fuel oil prices. How could Douglas Ross not clarify what support is available for his own constituents?

“With reports of people stealing oil and gas canisters out of desperation and pensioners choosing between turning on the heating or having dinner, we urgently need government intervention if we are to prevent rural Scotland from be plunged into Victorian-style poverty.”

A UK government spokesman said households north of the border “who are off the gas grid but on a default tariff for their electricity supply will still be protected by the energy price cap, which continues to protect families against even higher global gas prices”.

“We recognize the pressures people are facing, which is why the Chancellor has proposed a new £15billion support package,” the spokesperson said.

“Households in Scotland will also get an additional £296m of cost of living support, including help with high energy costs, and a record £41bn-a-year settlement announced. during the spending review – the most important regulation since decentralization.

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