Fuel poverty is growing in severity in north-west Scotland, particularly in the Western Isles, Skye and the West Highlands, according to recent research.
Statistics from the Energy Advisory Service indicated that the Western Isles in particular have the highest levels of fuel poverty in western Europe.
In a report responding to the findings, the West Highland Free Press pointed out that there have been several studies in recent years warning of an abnormally high level of fuel poverty in this part of Scotland.
The various pieces of research all suggest that the problem has become more severe in the north-west than in other parts of the country. They also warn that the situation is deteriorating.
Fuel poverty is normally assessed on two levels – ‘ordinary’, where at least ten per cent of a household’s income is spent on fuel, and ‘extreme’, where fuel costs account for at least 20 per cent of income.
According to the recent findings from the Energy Advisory Service, nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) of homes in the Western Isles are in ordinary fuel poverty. This compares to just eight per cent in the Netherlands.
The organisation also found that 11 per cent of island households are having to spend 30 per cent or more of their incomes to heat their homes.
According to the West Highland Free Press, this has taken many people by surprise because it is a relatively new problem.
One of the main contributing factors is low pay in the Western Isles, where half of the working population earn less than £16,500 a year. Furthermore, many local people live in detached homes, meaning they do not benefit from accumulated warmth like terraced properties.
Government statistics for England show that, in 2012, 2.28 million households (10.4 per cent) were in fuel poverty. This represents a reduction of almost five per cent from the previous year, when 2.39 million homes were experiencing the problem.