RUTH DAVIDSON – The only way to tackle fuel poverty is to make energy more affordable

IT is a tragedy that in 2013 as many as 62,000 households in Glasgow are in fuel poverty, with as many as 13,000 in extreme fuel poverty.

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We have some of the worst fuel poverty levels in Europe and it is clear radical solutions are needed to tackle the problem.

On Monday, the Scottish Conservatives announced a package of new energy policies to help tackle spiralling household bills.

There is no question Scotland needs to cut back on the use of fossil fuels, but it is not fair to expect already hard-pressed consumers to foot the bill through ever-increasing subsidies for windfarms.

It is important we look at all forms of energy, with support for unconventional gas exploration – which has helped cut bills by almost 20% in America – as well as replacing Scotland's ageing nuclear power stations.

There are other simple steps that can be taken to make heating our homes more affordable.

Planning laws should be changed to make it easier to modernise older properties.

Far too many buildings across Scotland still only have single glazing, when double-glazing alone can reduce domestic heating bills by up to £165 a year.

Loft insulation can save up to £175 a year and cavity wall insulation up to £135 a year.

A scheme already exists to encourage people to insulate their homes with the offer of a council tax discount.

The move, suggested by the Scottish Conservatives as part of the 2009 Climate Change Bill, was intended to reduce carbon emissions and people's household bills.

However, a lack of commitment on the part of the Scottish Government has seen as few as 10 households in Glasgow taking advantage of this rebate and some other local authorities did not receive a single application.

Clearly, much more needs to be done to improve public awareness of the help and advice available on saving energy.

All these measures are crucial to keeping the lights on in years to come.

Sadly, the Scottish Government has thrown all its eggs into the one basket by concentrating so heavily on promoting windfarms.

As well as costing millions of pounds in public subsidies, too many homes have been blighted by their proximity to wind turbines, especially on the outskirts of the city.

I want to see enforcement of planning guidance that wind farms should be at least two kilometres from residential areas.

WE should also adopt a system similar to that in Denmark, which has a valuation authority to rule in cases where people believe the price of their home has been affected by the siting of turbines.

The only way to tackle fuel poverty is to make energy more affordable for everyone.

But sticking with the SNP policy of covering our beautiful countryside in wind turbines is not the solution.

Local government

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