MSPs Call for “Urgent Review” of Scottish Government’s approach to the decarbonisation of rural homes

A cross-party group of MSPs has written to the Scottish Government warning that proposals to restrict heating options will penalise Scotland’s rural communities.

The letter, organised by Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing and signed by MSPs from the SNP, Labour, and Conservative groups, calls on the Scottish Government to urgently reconsider plans to force properties not connected to the gas grid over to electrified heating systems, such as heat pumps.

The Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings Strategy, designed to support the country’s Net Zero target, aims to phase out direct emissions heating systems in off-grid properties from 2025.

The letter was delivered after Scottish Government Minister Patrick Harvie announced plans to enforce penalties on owners of fossil fuel boilers with lower EPC ratings and restrictions on property sales for those with lower ratings.

As such, politicians representing some of Scotland’s most rural communities have highlighted the potential impact of these policies in remote properties, where the cost of transitioning to compliant electric systems is exorbitantly high or where properties are simply unsuitable for such a conversion.

Moreover, they warn of the potential consequence of leaving many homes without heating in the event of power outages caused by extreme weather.

The letter follows a recent poll in which 80% of 1,000 off-grid property owners said the cost of installing a heat pump would be unaffordable.

Furthermore, the group of MSPs highlight that inefficiencies in rural electricity grids and infrastructure would likely cause unnecessary disruption throughout the transition period.

Advocating for a mixed technology approach that could include the use of renewable liquid gases, the group of MSPs insist that that the Scottish government reconsider.

Fergus Ewing, SNP MSP for Inverness and Nairn:

“By seeking to reform Energy Performance Certificates and forcing rural homeowners to rely on electrified heating alone from 2025, the Scottish Government is taking an approach to decarbonisation that will pose a serious risk to those living in remote areas.

“Not only does it threaten to burden off-grid property owners with overwhelming costs, but it also leaves them vulnerable to extreme weather-induced power outages and disregards the realities of inefficient rural and islands electricity grids and infrastructure.

“While it’s important that we all work together to meet our Net Zero ambition, it should not come at the expense of our rural communities”.

Scottish Conservative energy spokesman, Douglas Lumsden MSP, added:

“These current proposals are deeply unfair on Scotland’s rural communities.

“If we are to reach net-zero, we need to do so in a way that is fair, affordable, and which offers choice to Scottish homeowners.

“Given the timescales involved, ministers must urgently review these proposals.”

Scottish Labour Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant commented:

“The decarbonisation of household heating plays a pivotal role in our journey towards achieving our Net Zero goal. However, it is crucial that we ensure a fair and just transition for those living in rural areas, providing them with the necessary support in this process.

“Instead, the current approach from the Scottish Government appears to penalise those living off the gas grid, despite their existing disadvantages.

“We need policies that address the specific challenges faced by rural communities and protect them from undue burdens during this critical transition.”