Monday, 2 March 2015

Burning Poor

Scotland has oil, lots of it, contributing around £37 billion to the UK economy, according to the Scottish Government

Map, and figures from

The island of Lewis and Harris is just 100km from the nearest proven reserves (marked with an arrow) and just 400km from the nearest producing field.

So, no problem with fuel for the islanders, then?


As the 2014 Fuel Poverty Report from the Energy Advisory Service makes clear, 71% of islanders are living in fuel poverty. "Fuel poverty" means spending 10% or more of your income on heating. For Gordon Brown, for example, that would mean spending £137,000 a year on coal. He'd keep a Fife coal mine going for that much.

In the Western Isles,  71% are in fuel poverty and 29% are not. In the rest of Scotland the figures are almost reversed, with 27% in fuel poverty and 73% not. There are 12,000 households in the Western Isles - so that is 8,500 households - families - in fuel poverty.

The report shows that it is especially the elderly who are suffering fuel poverty, but it also confirms that in-work poverty is a key issue. For those in work, the Western Isles has one of the lowest household income levels in Scotland, with half of households earning less than £16,500. Two thirds of households spend more than £1,500 on fuel.

As Professor Paul Cairney reminds us in today's The National, UK energy policy is still reserved to Westminster. An independent Scotland would have control of own energy, including those energy resources just 100km from Lewis and Harris.

It is early March in Lewis and Harris. It's cold - snow is forecast today. There are 8,500 families who are suffering because Westminster will not use Scotland's oil wealth to reduce Scotland's poverty. 

It is time that Scotland managed its energy reserves, so that we can deal with fuel poverty properly.

Note: The Energy Advisory Service (TEAS) and Tighean Innse Gall (TIG) are hosting a Fuel Poverty Conference at the An Lanntair Arts Centre, Stornoway on Tuesday, March 24th from 9.30am to 4pm.

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