SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has described the assistance for off-gas-grid homes announced yesterday by the UK Government as ‘wholly inadequate’.
Yesterday, the UK Government announced it would offer a payment of £100 to households across the UK who are off gas-grid and so who will not benefit from the Energy Price Guarantee on their heating bills. However, in the past two years, the cost of home heating oil has increased by more than 230%, rising from £0.31 a litre to £1.05 a litre on average. For homes who rely on heating oil, like a significant proportion of Western Isles households, £100 will buy less than 100 litres of heating oil, providing just two to three weeks of heating.
Commenting following yesterday’s announcement, Alasdair Allan said:
“As anyone who uses heating oil will know, £100 is nowhere near the ‘equivalent help’ promised by the new Prime Minister in her statement to the House of Commons at the beginning of the month. The price of heating oil has soared over the past two years, and despite numerous calls by myself and others for better regulation, including a price cap, to be introduced on the price of heating oil, the UK Government remains unwilling to protect heating oil consumers.
“A £100 payment is wholly inadequate, and will not even come close to the help that most heating oil users need to be able to properly heat their homes this winter in the Western Isles and across Scotland. While the Tories are focusing on boosting bankers’ bonuses and giving billions in tax breaks to big businesses, they are ignoring the real needs of ordinary people.
“The UK Government must re-think this decision, and instead ensure households reliant on heating oil receive meaningful and equivalent help with their heating oil bills over the next two years, as promised. With every day that the UK Government fails to properly respond, they are demonstrating how Scotland would be better off as an independent country, with the full powers needed to secure affordable energy for all homes.”
SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, will be hosting an online workshop on Tuesday 27th September at 7pm which aims to provide constituents with advice and support with their energy bills. The workshop will feature experts from Energy Action Scotland, Tighean Innse Gall and energy supplier E.ON.
While the UK Government’s recent ‘energy price guarantee’ announcement will prevent Ofgem’s price cap from rising by the previously predicted 80% next month, energy prices will still be hiked by around 27%. This will take many household bills to double what they were last winter, when combined with the previous price cap rise in April. The Western Isles already experiences some of the highest levels of fuel poverty in the UK, due to a combination of factors such as the majority of homes being off gas-grid, outdated transmission charges, poor energy efficiency in many types of local houses, and harsher weather conditions than in other parts of the country.
Commenting ahead of the online workshop, Alasdair Allan said:
“I know people throughout the Western Isles will be extremely anxious about their energy bills in the months ahead, and I hope that the information and advice presented by experts during this online session will be helpful for attendees.
“Households and businesses should not have been put in a position where bills are so impossibly high in the first place, and while the new Prime Minister’s energy price guarantee offers some temporary relief, unfortunately there remains a reluctance within the UK Government to properly address the underlying issues. People in the Western Isles should not have to continue to pay such disproportionately high bills when we have such a wealth of renewable energy resources generating electricity right here. It is also worth noting that, unlike the UK, EU countries have placed a €140bn windfall tax on the abnormally high excess profits of energy giants, something the UK Government has ruled out.
“However, it is vital that people in the islands know what their options are, if they are worried about their energy bills over the coming weeks and months. There is some support out there for those who may struggle over the coming months, whether through charities, UK or Scottish Government-funded assistance or through energy suppliers themselves. I will continue pushing for reform from the UK Government, while in the meantime ensuring that as many people as possible have access to the information and support they might need to help navigate the coming winter’s energy bills.”
SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has welcomed today’s confirmation that a revised programme of works has been agreed for Uig Harbour. The new programme will see the planned total number of weeks Uig pier will be out of action reduced from 24 weeks to 14 weeks, with ferry services disrupted for six and eight weeks at a time respectively, and spread across two winter timetable periods.
The isles MSP had, along with other community representatives, been raising concerns for a number of months about the severe impact which the original 24-week closure could have on Harris and Uist, particularly after an already challenging year of breakdowns and adverse weather-related cancellations.
Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:
“I would like to thank the Transport Minister for engaging fully with community representatives on this issue. While nobody welcomes any disruption to lifeline services, I believe this new work timetable is a huge improvement on what was originally proposed.
“I am glad that the Scottish Government has listened to the community and committed the additional investment necessary to help limit the negative impact which the essential work at Uig will have on communities in the Western Isles.”
The first outage will commence on 16 January 2023 until 13 March 2023, and the second outage will commence on 30 October 2023 until 11 December 2023. These changes are being supported by direct investment of £6 million from the Scottish Government.
Earlier this week SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, hosted a meeting in Leverburgh between Hebridean Housing Partnership (HHP), and others in the community to discuss the urgent need for affordable rented housing in South Harris. .
Representatives from local groups such as the Leverburgh Community Council and South Harris Community Council highlighted the significant and growing issue of a lack of affordable housing for people in South Harris, and were able to ask HHP about the latest on their planned projects for the area.
Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:
“This was a positive and constructive meeting where community representatives clearly highlighted the impact people’s inability to access housing is having on local communities, services and businesses in this area. I would like to thank HHP and the local representatives present for actively engaging on this issue in pursuit of viable solutions.
“It is vital that we all continue to work together to address the affordable housing crisis in Harris, and indeed the whole of the Western Isles. A lack of affordable housing has been repeatedly identified as a key contributor to our islands’ depopulation. We need to ensure plans for affordable housing in the south of Harris are accelerated as far as possible, given the emerging crisis and the damaging effect already being felt in this community.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has reacted to the news that the linkspans at Lochboisdale and Castlebay Ferry Terminals are set to close for emergency repairs.
Lochboisdale Ferry Terminal will be closed for two weeks from 24 September for essential work to replace wire lifting ropes after a routine inspection by specialist engineers a revealed a number of lifting ropes on the linkspan needed to be urgently replaced.
Castlebay Ferry Terminal also needs to have the lifting ropes on its linkspan replaced, although mitigation measures in place will allow safe ongoing operation for a longer period. Dates for the replacement work will be identified by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL).
Alasdair Allan MSP said:
“This is incredibly frustrating for the community in South Uist. Both ends of the summer timetable are now set to see two-week closure periods. This is in addition to the significant disruption they have had to endure throughout the year.
“CalMac need to urgently consult with local businesses and identify mitigation measures to put in place during the closure periods.
“The closure length and dates for Castlebay also need to be clarified as soon as possible. We need more information so that communities and businesses can know what they are dealing with.
“The community in South Uist campaigned long and hard for their own dedicated route to the mainland. Both communities have seen huge benefits since 2016 from having dedicated vessels. However, the unreliability of the service puts these benefits at risk.
“These closures underline the critical need for accelerated investment in both upgraded infrastructure and news vessels for South Uist and Barra, including the need to move ahead soon with decisions on a new ferry terminal site in Lochboisdale.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has urged regulator OFGEM to heed concerns raised by many islanders regarding draft plans they have for the network locally.
SSEN Distribution, the electricity distribution and transmission network operator for the North of Scotland, put forward significant investment proposals for the Western Isles in their 2023-2028 business plan. This included the replacement of the current 31-year-old single cable serving Uist and Barra with two new subsea cables.
However, OFGEM has blocked investment in the two new cables and well as the replacement of the existing cable serving Uist and Barra.
In responding to the consultation on the Draft Determinations, Alasdair Allan MSP said:
“Rejecting these options will have a clear, negative impact on the resilience of Uist and Barra. It will also constrain the further development of the renewables sector in Uist and Barra, despite significant interest from community groups and industry.
“Despite suffering from the highest rates of fuel poverty, households in the Western Isles face energy bills that are on average 26% higher than the current energy cap. This inherently unfair situation will be compounded if they cannot rely on a resilient and robust network that virtually every other part of the country would expect.
“Many of my constituents have expressed a view that Ofgem simply does not understand the unique challenges faced by SSEN in delivering and maintaining a reliable distribution network in the Western Isles.
“The unique characteristics and requirements of the North of Scotland require a bespoke approach. Scotland has set a legally binding 2045 net zero target, five years ahead of the rest of the UK. This can only be achieved by accelerating electrification and greater investment is required in both network capacity and reliability to facilitate decarbonisation, and support an ever-increasing reliance on the electricity network.
“It is imperative Ofgem that urgently reconsiders their Draft Determinations affecting the Western Isles. Islander consumers should have access to as reliable and resilient a network as the consumers on the mainland.”
Ofgem’s RIIO-ED2 Draft Determinations Consultation is available at https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications/riio-ed2-draft-determinations