National islands plan: annual report - 2020

The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 requires that a report is presented to Parliament each year setting out the progress made towards delivery of the National Islands Plan. The National Islands Plan annual report 2020 is the first of these reports.

Housing and Fuel Poverty

Strategic Objective 4 - To improve housing

We committed to ensure that Housing to 2040 truly reflects the distinct needs of island communities.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Housing policy continues to be developed taking the needs of island communities into consideration. In our 2018-19 Programme for Government, we made a commitment to plan together with stakeholders for how our homes and communities should look and feel in 2040 and the options and choices to get there. The Housing to 2040 Routemap has been informed by extensive engagement with the housing sector, stakeholders and the public.

This includes feedback received from those living in and working with island communities. Findings from feedback provided as part of the National Islands Plan consultation have also been taken into account.

We committed to ensure that the regulation of short-term lets takes account of the unique circumstances of island communities and make special provision for them where required.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

We are working with stakeholders to develop guidance and finalise legisaltion for a short-term lets licensing scheme. The principal component of our licensing scheme is a set of mandatory standards which will apply to all short-term lets across Scotland, including those on island communities. The Government intends to lay legisaltion to establish a new licensing scheme in June 2021.

Legisaltion allowing councils to establish short-term let control areas was approved by the Scottish Parliament in February, and will come into force in April 2021.

We committed to explore how the rural and island housing fund might be adapted in the future to expand the range of options to support housing development in remote and island communities.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

In November 2020, Scottish Government announced an extension to the Rural and Island Housing Fund beyond March 2021 of £30 millon. This demand led fund supports the supply of affordable housing across all tenures, and groups such as community organisations, development trusts and private landowners to build new affordable housing, refurbish existing properties, bring empty properties into use, including the conversion of commercial and non-domestic properties into houses. It includes feasibility funding to help groups explore the range of possibilities and is helping to provide a strong pipeline of projects.

Projects supported through the Rural and Islands Housing Fund include:

We committed to continue to provide grants to crofters to build and improve croft houses.

This commitment has been fulfilled.

We have continued to provide grants to crofters and over the last 12 months, have approved 40 Croft House Grant applications from island crofters, with a total value of
£1.2 million. This comprises of 23 new homes and 17 home improvements grants.

Of the 40 successful island applications, 24 were in Na h-Eileanan an Iar, 12 were in Highland, 2 were in Shetland, and 2 were in Argyll and Bute.

We committed to make best use of all housing stock including derelict properties and options for compulsory purchase.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Local authorities are the statutory housing authority and are responsible for assessing housing requirements in their areas and using the available tools to make the best use of existing stock alongside the delivery of new homes to meet identified needs and support effective place making. The Scottish Government updated guidance for local authorities in 2019. The guidance requires local authorities to set out the number of empty homes in their area and the authorities' plans to address the issue, including through the use of Complusory Purchase Order powers where appropriate.

Tackling empty homes remains a priority for Scottish Government. We want to see no homes left empty without good reason. To help achieve this we fund the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership to work with local authorities, and owners, to return them to productive use. The work of the Partnership has helped to bring around 6,000 homes back into use since 2010 and we are keen to see this figure continue to grow. Dedicated empty homes officers are fundamental to this approach and we want to see them working across all of our island communities.

We committed to improve access to homes for people looking to settle in, or return to, island communities. In collaboration with local authorities and relevant stakeholders, we will examine the full range of options to do this, making best use of our existing homes and new supply.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Through the wider Affordable Supply Housing Programme and the Rural and Islands Housing Fund, over 4,800 homes have been delivered in rural and island communities over the first four years of the Parliament, including 589 on island communities alone.

We committed to ensure that the impact on Gaelic speaking communities is considered as housing policies are developed

Work has yet to be progressed in relation to this commitment.

Housing policies will continue to be developed and implemented in a way which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society in line with the provisions of the Equalities Act 2010.

Strategic Objective 5 - To reduce levels of fuel poverty

We committed to review how delivery schemes can work better locally and review funding for island communities.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Through our energy efficiency schemes, Scottish Government already spend more per head on energy efficiency in remote rural and island areas, where we know installation and labour costs are higher. For instance, fuel poor households in remote rural and island communities benefit from an additional £2,000 uplift to reflect the increased delivery costs in these areas.

Our Warmer Homes Scotland scheme has introduced additional renewable and enabling measures, including ground source heat pumps, micro-wind, micro-hydro and micro-CHP systems that will be of particular benefit to households living off the gas grid, which is the case for most island based communities.

We will continue to regularly review how delivery schemes can be adapted to work better locally, and that funding is adequately distributed to our island communities.

We committed to develop a remote rural, remote small town and island Minimum Income Standard uplift, with the uplift for island areas to be determined separately.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Previously, during the passage of the legislation which became the Fuel Poverty Act 2019, we undertook an ICIA to fully consider the implications for island based households. This entailed a number of workshops organised in each of the six local authority areas which encompass island communities.

The feedback we received contributed to our decision to include in the new definition of fuel poverty, adjustments to the UK Minimum Income Standard which take proper account of the generally higher cost of living in the islands.

We committed to produce an Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) on the final Fuel Poverty Strategy, ensuring that representatives from island local authorities are fully involved in its development

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

An ICIA will be undertaken on the Fuel Poverty Strategy. Development of the Strategy is currently paused due to COVID-19, but will be resumed as soon as possible and published in 2021.

We committed to carry out research and analysis to meet the requirements of the Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Act 2019 that will also enhance our understanding of the costs of living faced by families living in island communities.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

As we come to prepare our Fuel Poverty Strategy we are committed to continuing to take full account of the special circumstances faced by those living in island areas and undertake the necessary research and analysis to meet the Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Act 2019.



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