Following today’s budget statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has called for further clarity on the support which is due to be provided for households who use fuels such as heating oil, LPG and biomass to heat their homes.

When the former prime minister announced her energy support measures in September, households off the gas grid had been told they would receive ‘equivalent’ help to those benefiting from the cap on the cost of gas units. It was later announced that this would amount only to a £100 one-off payment.

The Isles MSP had previously written to both former UK Secretaries of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to highlight that this amount was wholly inadequate, given how sharply the cost of these fuels has risen over the past year.

The Chancellor’s budget today, however, indicated that the UK Government will now increase the Alternative Fuels Payment to £200, delivered “as soon as possible this winter”. Non-domestic consumers will receive a one-off £150 payment with “top-up” payments available for large users of heating oil. The details of the new support committed today have however still to be confirmed.

Commenting after today’s budget statement, Allan said:

“While I welcome the UK Government’s admission that £100 was nowhere near enough to meaningfully help off-gas-grid households with their skyrocketing heating bills this winter, much more clarity is needed now over how this support will be administered, and when.

“People need help now to be able to afford to fill up their oil tanks for this winter, not weeks or months down the line. Households who are not on the gas grid should already have been receiving this help, not forced to struggle while they wait for the UK Government to come up with a feasible administrative plan for this support.

“The Chancellor’s announcement today notes that due to the high number of off-gas-grid homes in Northern Ireland, every household there will receive the £200 payment. However, given that the proportion of off gas grid homes in the Western Isles is 12% higher than in Northern Ireland, and the fact that those in the Western Isles already pay far higher than average rates for their electricity, I believe the £200 payment should be available to all Western Isles households.”

The announcement about the Alternative Fuels Payment can be found on p. 47 of today’s UK Government budget.

It is estimated that 88% of homes in the Western Isles are not on the gas grid, compared to 76% in Northern Ireland.

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