Up to 17,000 green jobs could be created if ministers found almost £100m more in their budget for tackling fuel poverty and energy efficiency, campaigners have claimed.
Friends of the Earth Scotland, the Existing Homes Alliance and the Living Rent campaign group joined forces to make the claim for additional cash, arguing there could be a “triple win” for Scotland.
They want to see the budget for tackling fuel poverty and improving the energy efficiency of homes increased from £145.6 million in the 2021-22 draft budget to £244 million.
As well as creating up to 17,000 new jobs, the groups added this would improve properties across the country and help cut climate emissions.
Housing is currently responsible for 15% of Scotland’s emissions, they said, while one in four households are affected by fuel poverty.
Lori McElroy, chair of the Existing Homes Alliance – which brings together housing, environmental, anti-poverty and energy advice organisations, insisted: “As it stands, the budget falls well short of what is needed to meet the Scottish Government’s own targets and transform peoples’ homes, tackle fuel poverty, and cut the climate impact of our heating systems.”
She told how a recent Scottish Government strategy set the goal of having one million energy efficient homes by 2030, and added: “Scotland’s successful energy efficiency and fuel poverty programmes are ready to scale up and improve thousands more homes, but they need an urgent cash boost to do so.”
With Scots spending more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, there are also concerns that increasing fuel bills will have a financial impact on some.
Ellinore Folkesson, chair of Living Rent, said: “Tenants across Scotland are having to choose between eating and turning on the heating, especially now as the pandemic has squeezed people’s income.
“Many are living in cold, damp homes and suffering from health problems as a result.
“Investment in energy efficiency across the sector is sorely needed to improve people’s living conditions, and the Scottish Government must ensure there is support in place to improve rented homes without tenants having to foot the bill.
“This could form the cornerstone of a green recovery and represent a crucial opportunity not to be missed.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland climate and energy campaigner Caroline Rance said: “The Scottish Government recently announced they were going to spend £1.6 billion across the entire energy efficiency sector, but that is to be spread over five years, and very little of that new cash actually will be spent in this year’s budget.
“Choosing to invest in warmer homes can create a triple win for jobs, public health and the fight against climate change.
“These are the type of positive transformations we must make towards creating a greener, fairer Scotland as we build back from Covid-19.
“With the right Government scheme and an immediate cash boost, up to 17,000 green jobs could be created, many of them quickly and spread right across Scotland.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to tackling poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty which is why we are more than doubling our annual capital investment in heat and energy efficiency over the next five years increasing our investment from £112 million in 2019/20 to £398 million in 2025/26.
“Our draft Budget for 2021/22 allocates £213.4 million capital – an increase of £30 million on this year for the first year of our five-year commitment to allocate almost £1.6 billion over the next five years to heat and energy efficiency.
“At least £465 million capital will be allocated for domestic energy efficiency programmes, Warmer Homes Scotland and the Area Based Schemes, over the five years.
“This investment will help ramp up the capability and capacity of supply chains, creating sustainable jobs, while cutting emissions and tackling fuel poverty.”