Council leader issues stark warning that could leave 96% of islanders pushed into fuel poverty

As many as 96% of people living in Shetland could be pushed into fuel poverty by next year, the local authority has warned.

Rising fuel prices are expected to impact across the country in the coming months, but the picture in one of Scotland’s islands is stark.

Shetland Islands Council say all but those earning £104,000 a year will be in fuel poverty, with average energy costs projected to rise to £10,300 per household annually by April – more than double the projection for the UK.

In predictions released on Monday, the council claims 96% of people will be spending 10% of their household income on energy by April, while 75% will be in extreme fuel poverty – meaning at least 20% of household income is spent on energy.

To stay out of extreme fuel poverty, islanders will need to earn £52,000 annually per household – compared to just £26,000 in the rest of the UK.

Some 40% of households on the islands could spend 40% of their household income on energy.

The estimated total spend on energy in Shetland last winter was just over £18 million – this year’s projection is more than £56 million.

Shetland Islands Council leader Emma Macdonald wrote to Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi about the bleak outlook for the islands.

“Our islands have been at the heart of oil and gas activity for over 40 years, yet our people have not seen the benefits of that in terms of a lower cost of fuel,” she said in a statement.

“Shetland has contributed, and will continue to contribute, significantly to UK energy exports, and yet people in our communities will struggle to heat their homes in the coming year.

“This is particularly ironic, given the continued development of offshore and onshore renewable energy production around Shetland.

“We are calling for UK Government support to enable host communities to secure long-term community benefit arrangements, which could include access to low-cost energy for islanders.

“But we also need immediate Government help to address rising energy costs, which will have such a damaging impact on those who live in Shetland.”

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said she had been told by a business owner on the islands that they would make substantial losses if energy prices rise to projected levels.

“You shouldn’t have to be a millionaire to stay warm this winter,” she added.

“The Conservatives and the SNP have been caught like deer in the headlights. They must act now to spare families from soaring energy bills by cancelling October’s price cap increase.

“Liberal Democrats have set out plans to block the energy price rise before it happens but we cannot wait weeks for a new Conservative Prime Minister to act. The Government must step in now to help families and pensioners in the isles and beyond by cancelling the planned rise in energy bills.

“Nicola Sturgeon must get her act together too. She needs to put every penny of the Scottish Government’s budget (towards) helping hard hit households and kickstart an emergency insulation programme to bring down bills.”

A spokesman for the UK Government said: “We know the pressures people in Shetland and across the UK are facing with rising costs, which is why we have continually taken action to help households by phasing in £37 billion worth of support.

“This includes a £400 discount on energy bills over winter and eight million of the most vulnerable households will see £1,200 extra support.

“We also protect households and businesses in the north of Scotland, including Shetland, by providing around £90 million every year to reduce electricity distribution charges in that region.

“This is on top of the extra £82 million we provided to the Scottish Government to help vulnerable families across Scotland at their discretion.”

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