Although it is not yet a statutory requirement, the Scottish Government committed to conducting an Island Communities Impact Assessment ("ICIA") for the Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill ("the Fuel Poverty Bill") as will be required by the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 ("the 2018 Act") once in force. Accordingly, this report has been developed in the spirit of the 2018 Act, ensuring that the specific perspectives and concerns of those who live in island communities have been taken into account. The report has been undertaken in partnership and consultation with the local people and island local authorities.
Government officials met with the six local authorities which comprise inhabited islands ("island Local Authorities") and island community members through stakeholder meetings held in March. Meeting participants were updated on the progress of the Fuel Poverty Bill through Parliament. Stakeholder concerns on the impact of the Fuel Poverty Bill for their communities as well as on the unique challenges faced by island communities were discussed and taken away to form the main element of this assessment.
The key concerns of island communities relate to how the rural, remote rural and island uplift to the Minimum Income Standard (MIS), which will form part of the fuel poverty definition, will reflect the lived experience on the ground. In addition, they called for the need for flexibilities around scheme delivery and funding in island communities in order to exploit the unique circumstances that island living presents, as well as recognising and stepping up to its challenges. The following mitigating actions have been identified as necessary in order to support the Scottish Government's aim of reducing fuel poverty within island communities in the context of the Fuel Poverty Bill.
Action 1: In order to address the higher levels of extreme fuel poverty in island communities, the Scottish Government and partners will review how funding is allocated to ensure that extreme fuel poverty levels are taken into account as well as fuel poverty levels as part of the final Fuel Poverty Strategy.
Action 2: The final Fuel Poverty Strategy will work with island communities to design, pilot and implement delivery flexibilities that will support the tackling of hard to treat extreme fuel poverty.
Action 3: A qualitative reporting section will be considered for inclusion in the reporting cycle for the Fuel Poverty Bill.
Action 4: Given the additional challenges faced by island communities due to the differences in housing characteristics versus the mainland as well as the need to strengthen the consultation process for the final Fuel Poverty Strategy, the Scottish Government will ensure that representatives from island local authorities are fully involved in the process to develop the strategy.
Action 5: The Scottish Government will create a remote rural, remote small town and island minimum income standard uplift, with the uplift for island areas to be determined separately. This, taken alongside modelled estimates of energy consumption and fuel bills that already take account of geographical variances in fuel costs and weather conditions (soon to be down to postcode district level to reflect more localised weather patterns), will ensure that the new definition is tailored to island communities' lived experience and will provide an accurate view of fuel poverty in these communities.
Action 6: We will seek views from all island local authorities before the end of this summer as we prepare the regulations for the enhanced heating regime.
Action 7: We will work with the 6 island local authorities to develop the learning from the HEEPS Equity Loan pilot on Na h-Eileanan Siar and consider how that can be expanded to ensure that help is available to those who need it.
Action 8: We will conduct an ICIA on the final Fuel Poverty Strategy, building on the work done to prepare this assessment, to be published at the same time as the strategy.