The Western Isles are victims of uncontrolled rises in heating oil prices as the international economic crisis gathers even more pace with the threat from Russia to cut gas supplies.
During yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions (Thursday March 31) in the Scottish Parliament, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, highlighted again the extreme fuel poverty in the Western Isles, where 88% of properties are off-gas-grid.
Allan noted the imminent electricity price hike, but also that heating oil had already more than doubled in price since this time last year.
He then asked the First Minister for her assurance that the Scottish Government would continue to make representations to the UK Government to urge them to introduce proper regulations, including a price cap, for the heating oil industry.
Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that the Scottish Government will continue to lobby the UK Government on this issue, and that she recognised the impact of price increases on off-gas-grid energy consumers.
The First Minister also emphasised that the powers to regulate this market remain reserved to the UK Government, but that the Scottish Government would continue its fuel insecurity funding to support those struggling with bills, regardless of what fuel they use.
Ofgem’s price cap rise of 54% comes into effect from tomorrow (1st April). However, the off grid energy market is not currently subject to regulation by Ofgem, instead being covered by the competition and markets authority. The Office of Fair Trading (the predecessor organisation to the Competition and Market Authority) conducted an investigation into the off-grid market in 2011.
Allan said later:“Given the dramatic increases in the cost of living across the board, including for heating oil, it is imperative that the UK Government commits to introducing regulation for this market. Consumers in the Western Isles cannot chose to buy from a lower priced supplier as there are no others who will actually deliver to our island communities.
"The UK approach to protecting consumers is clearly not working, especially for those in rural and island locations.”