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by Margaret Taylor
23 November 2023
Rebel MSP Fergus Ewing urges First Minister to 'recycle Green ministers' over heat-pumps plan

Fergus Ewing railed against the government's heat-pump plan | Alamy

Rebel MSP Fergus Ewing urges First Minister to 'recycle Green ministers' over heat-pumps plan

First Minister Humza Yousaf dismissed Fergus Ewing as a “climate denier” and “climate sceptic” after the rebel SNP MSP asked an impassioned question about heat pumps during today’s session of First Minister’s Questions.

Ewing, who earlier this year was suspended from the party for defying the whip in a vote of no confidence in Green minister Lorna Slater, urged Yousaf to ditch a policy that requires all new-build homes to be fitted with climate-friendly heating systems from next year.

 “We all agree that there is an acute housing shortage in this country, yet Homes for Scotland, Cala Homes, Taylor Woodrow and Persimmon, all major housebuilders, have all warned – all warned – repeatedly that the heat-pump targets, especially for new builds, have had the effect of forcing up costs of housebuilding so that fewer homes are being built in Scotland," he said.

“So, if the first minister wants to tackle the housing shortage, will he consign the Green Party’s half-based, pie-in-the-sky policy to the bin, where it belongs, alongside deposit return and Highly Protected Marine Areas, and will he recycle his Green ministers to the backbenches where they belong and then meet with industry and real experts – actual experts – to work out a plan to solve the problem?”

After an intervention from Deputy Presiding Officer Liam McArthur, who asked Ewing to let Yousaf speak, the first minister told his backbencher that members of the Conservative Party were applauding him because “his suggestions are not the most sensible that he is suggesting we bring forward”.

“I do not believe that we can simply put our heads in the sand and ignore the scale of the climate crisis that we are facing,” he said.

“Yes, housebuilding and house construction is facing challenges – just look at sky-high, rocketing inflation, caused by the Conservative government.

“So, yes, let’s tackle sky-rocketing inflation, let’s tackle some of those high construction costs and, of course, we have several, not just targets but significant investments in housebuilding over the course of this parliament and beyond.

“When it comes to ensuring that we replace gas boilers, Presiding Officer, we will not consign that policy at all to the dustbin of history.

“In fact, history will judge very poorly those who are climate sceptics or climate deniers in the face of a climate crisis that is harming our planet.”

The government’s Heat in Buildings Strategy, which was published in the wake of the Bute House Agreement between the SNP and Scottish Greens, stipulated that gas boilers would be banned from new-build properties from April next year while fossil fuel boilers in existing homes should start being phased out from 2025.

Ewing has long been opposed to the plan, joining several other MSPs to last August write to Patrick Harvie, the minister for zero carbon buildings, to voice concerns.

Ewing, who has long made his displeasure with the Bute House Agreement known, is currently appealing his suspension from the party.

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