More needs to be done to tackle the scourge of fuel poverty in the Northern Isles, according to MP Alistair Carmichael.
A new report by Age Scotland on the issues facing over 55s in the Scottish islands is “troubling”, the Lib Dem politician said.
He is particularly concerned about fuel poverty given that rates in Shetland and Orkney are much higher than the national average. Here some 44 per cent of households are said to be in fuel poverty while in Orkney the rate is 57 per cent.
The figures need to serve as a “wake-up call”, said Mr Carmichael otherwise authorities will not be able to cope with the “future needs of islanders”.
to compound matters the Northern Isles have one of the “fastest-ageing” populations in Scotland with the proportion of over-75s set to increase significantly in the coming decades.
As part of the Age Scotland research a survey of over-55s was conducted in Orkney.
We’re used to our long, dark winters in the Northern Isles, so naturally heating costs are significantly higher here than in the majority of Scotland. ALISTAIR CARMICHAEL
Mr Carmichael said: “It comes as no surprise to see that fuel poverty is a major worry for those surveyed in Orkney. We’re used to our long, dark winters in the Northern Isles, so naturally heating costs are significantly higher here than in the majority of Scotland.
“It is clear that this weighs heavily on vulnerable members of the community. With fuel poverty rates at 57 per cent in Orkney and 44 per cent in Shetland, more action is clearly needed. It’s about time that the government takes notice of the fuel poverty emergency in the Isles.
“While the findings are troubling, I am grateful to Age Scotland for this timely report. From local organisations all the way up to the national government, we should all take notice, and take steps to respond to the changing needs of our communities.”
According to the Age Scotland website, more than half of the respondents to the Orkney survey said they were concerned about rising fuel costs while 47 per cent admitted turning down their heating to save money.
One in nine older residents said they struggled to pay their fuel bills some or all of the time and 56 per cent worried about the cost of fuel.