Everyone should have enough money in their pocket to pay the essential costs of housing and energy and still be able to lead a healthy and decent life. Poverty and hardship of any form can impact on any household and can come about because of a range of reasons; and as a government we are taking action to tackle it through maximising incomes and addressing the poverty premium. Inequalities that we have promised to address across the poverty spectrum - to help improve the opportunities for our children, to narrow the attainment gap, and to reduce health inequalities - can be partly addressed through the action we take on fuel poverty. In our ambition for Scotland we want to see more households living in well insulated warm homes; accessing affordable, low carbon, energy; and having an increased understanding of how to best use energy efficiently in their homes.
Our ambition does not stand alone. It is backed by a robust fuel poverty strategy, including a Warm Homes Bill to set a new legislative target, against which we will report our progress. As a Government, we will be held to account on our efforts to improve the lives of those who have struggled to heat their home affordably. But this is not just the responsibility of the Scottish Government, particularly when we do not hold all the powers. To eradicate fuel poverty, we need to ensure that this issue is not just acknowledged, but embedded in our policies and those of our partners across all sectors and at both a national and local level. This will mean exploring further how we can work together with those who are at the sharp end of fuel poverty, and with stakeholders including local government and third sector organisations, to maximise our efforts and deliver on our ambition.
This Government is investing more in tackling fuel poverty than any other Government - £1 billion between 2009 and the end of this parliament - yet around 31 per cent of Scottish households were in fuel poverty in 2015. Among them are families with young children and individuals suffering with serious medical conditions. This is unacceptable in a modern, progressive and compassionate country like ours. Children who are forced to sleep in cold, damp bedrooms and are unable to find a warm well-lit place to do their homework will be less likely to achieve their full potential. It's broadly accepted that a number of medical conditions can worsen in a cold environment, causing misery for those experiencing it and placing increasing demand on NHS resources. Otherwise capable individuals who are unable to afford basic energy needs may be more likely to withdraw from their community. We need to take even further and faster action to help lift those experiencing this poverty into a better quality of life and to stop others falling into it.
We therefore propose to enshrine our ambition to eradicate fuel poverty in a new Warm Homes Bill.
The Warm Homes Bill will set a new measurement framework and will align itself with wider actions on tackling poverty and inequalities. By setting our ambition in legislation through the Warm Homes Bill we are demonstrating that we are serious about taking action to tackle this issue and driving forward change. The Bill will set out clear objectives, against which our progress will be measured, and will ensure we work closely with partners to deliver targeted policies that will achieve our goals.
Fuel costs that have risen well above the rate of inflation have been the biggest driver of fuel poverty in Scotland to date. This Government doesn't have powers to control fuel prices, but we do have strategies to increase the availability of affordable low carbon heat. Through our Climate Change Plan, our Energy Strategy and the forthcoming Scotland's Energy Efficiency Programme ( SEEP) we will be paving the way for innovation and coordinated efforts across sectors to find the most effective solutions for households no matter where they live in Scotland. This, coupled with strong links to our Government's Economic Strategy, will help deliver our aims to create sustainable employment opportunities that will boost incomes in communities the length and breadth of Scotland.
Earlier this year I formally responded to reports from the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force. Both groups were tasked with looking anew at the issues we face specifically in Scotland, and they made over 100 recommendations to inform our approach to tackling fuel poverty and improving the energy efficiency of people's homes wherever they live in Scotland. The views of these groups have informed this consultation paper.
The consultation looks at our existing approach and legislative framework and sets out detailed proposals for a new Fuel Poverty Strategy and the targets which will be enshrined in legislation. We would welcome your views and any additional evidence you can offer in answer to the questions which feature throughout the document.
Scotland is one of only a handful of European countries to define fuel poverty, let alone set a target to reduce it, and I make no apologies for this government's continuing long term ambition to eradicate it. It is through partnership working that we can make a real transformational change.
The Warm Homes Bill, at its heart, will be based on our principles of fairness and equality for all, and as such will be set within the overarching agenda set out by the Fairer Scotland Action Plan. By continuing to push boundaries we will develop innovative solutions that will help make our ambition a reality.
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