Highlands & Islands MSP says Winter Heating Payment must go further than Cold Weather Payments to protect rural and island communities from fuel poverty.

Highlands & Islands MSP Emma Roddick has questioned the adequacy of the UK’s social security system, highlighting that Cold Weather Payments have failed to deliver for communities with the highest levels of fuel poverty.

During a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Social Justice and Social Security Committee, Deputy Convener Ms Roddick pointed out that areas like Stornoway, Lerwick, Kirkwall, and Wick had not triggered payments to any significant extent, tending the average around one per year, despite the considerable challenges faced by those living there.

Ms Roddick asked the Minister for Social Security and Local Government, Ben Macpherson, if Social Security Scotland’s incoming Winter Heating Payment would tackle this issue and deliver for those suffering high levels of fuel poverty.

In response, the Minister assured the committee that the new Winter Heating Payment would provide support in a more reliable way, providing security and certainty for those who need it.

Commenting, Ms Roddick said:

“The current Cold Weather Payment is weak and unreliable. The fact that communities across my region, like Stornoway, Lerwick, Kirkwall, and Wick – areas experiencing the highest levels of fuel poverty matched with some of the harshest weather conditions – have barely met the criteria for payments over the last decade really speaks to itself.

“Now more than ever, we are seeing how much more support is needed. Every day, I hear of another household in my region struggling with plummeting temperatures whilst their energy costs soar.

“I am really glad to see the Scottish Government recognising the inadequacies of the Cold Weather Payments and committing to creating a benefit that works better to protect those who need it the most, despite the increased cost.

“Whilst the UK system fails to protect the most vulnerable in our society, the Scottish Government is continuing to develop its range of fair and compassionate benefits for the people of Scotland.”