Governments urged to tackle the unacceptable "scourge” of fuel poverty in remote and rural areas of Scotland

Right Rev Dr Russell Barr

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland the Right Rev Dr Russell Barr said higher charges paid by consumers there meant that some of the most vulnerable communities are hit hardest.

He added that it was "unacceptable” that the issue was acute in areas with the richest potential for renewable energy such as wind or hydro power.

Dr Barr attended the Royal Highland Show near Edinburgh today and spent time at The Churches in Rural Scotland tent.

A report to the General Assembly last month highlighted the extent of fuel poverty in rural Scotland and the challenges facing remote communities suffering higher energy costs.

It noted that the Western Isles and Orkney now experience the worst fuel poverty in the UK.

The report stated that the problem is made worse because extra transmission costs add to electricity bills and there is no mains gas supply so people experience a double blow.

And to compound the situation further, communities in remote areas trying to develop community energy schemes are often delayed or hampered for years by red tape and regulation.

Dr Barr, who founded Edinburgh charity Fresh Start which helps people who have been homeless turn a house into a home, said: “I am calling on the Scottish and Westminster Governments to help rural communities affected by fuel poverty.

“Higher charges paid by electricity consumers in the remotest parts of Scotland and no mains gas supply means that some of our most vulnerable communities are hit hardest.

“It is unacceptable that some of the highest levels of fuel poverty are in the areas with the richest potential for renewable energy whether wind or hydro.

“At a time when rural communities are facing so many challenges , community energy schemes offer one of the best opportunities to foster rural regeneration.”

Dr Barr said the Scottish and UK governments can help break the deadlock affecting community energy schemes in remote communities .

“A proper connection from the Western Isles to the mainland UK electricity grid would offer these communities the chance to develop energy projects,” he added.

“But the interconnector project seem to be stuck in a never ending tangle involving the UK Government, regulators and electricity companies.

“It is time this Gordian knot was cut and some of our rural communities were given the chance to thrive.”