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by Staff Reporter
09 April 2024
Scottish Government accused of ‘central belt’ policymaking as wood burning stoves banned in new builds

The new building standards came into force this month | Alamy

Scottish Government accused of ‘central belt’ policymaking as wood burning stoves banned in new builds

Wood burning stoves and other pollution-emitting heating systems have been banned in new builds by the Scottish Government, unless an emergency need can be justified.

In a move branded a “disaster” by some island residents, the new rules came into force at the start of this month as part of a package of new building standards.

Guidance on the new standards confirm: “Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that the means by which space within the building is heated or cooled and by which hot water is made available in the building is not by means of a direct emission heating system.”

This only applies to new builds and does not mean residents will be forced to remove pre-existing wood burning stoves.

It comes as part of the government’s efforts to reduce emissions from heating systems, part of the drive towards net zero by 2045.

Zero carbon buildings minister Patrick Harvie hit out at claims stoves had been banned full stop. He said: "What's changing is rules for new buildings & major conversions applying for a building warrant from this month. It has nothing to do with existing heating systems, or replacements that aren't part of a building conversion. There are exemptions for emergency heating systems too."

These exceptions allow for direct emission heating systems to be installed for emergencies "where a need can be justified", the government has clarified - for example when a power cut occurs.

But Argyll-based architecture firm Macarc have accused the Scottish Government of introducing “central-belt based policy, with little regard paid to Scottish rural house dwellers”.

In a thread on twitter, a statement from the firm said: “We had previously sought clarification on [the new building standard] and had been advised that stoves would be permitted as a secondary heat source. Sensible, particularly in rural areas where power cuts are not uncommon. However there has now been a U-turn, and woodburning stoves are history.

“What was until last week a sustainable, renewable heat source, will be outlawed. As well as removing an essential backup source of heat for many, off-grid properties will no longer be able to use wood stoves.”

A twitter account run by residents of the Isle of Eigg responded: “Banning wood-burning stoves is a disaster for us. They are a key part of our net zero by 2030 strategy. Practical & cheap to fit compared to heat pumps etc. They provide hot water in winter when solar thermal can’t. Island timber harvesting provides local affordable fuel & jobs.”

SNP MSP Kate Forbes, who represents Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said she was “seeking urgent clarification” regarding the news rules.

She added: “This has just been brought to my attention by more than a few concerned Highlanders who heat their homes (as thousands do) using woodburning stoves, especially older residents who rely on them during a time of crippling energy price rises.”

On the government's confirmation she some new builds will be able to install stoves and other heating systems that cause emissions, Forbes said: "Assuming that includes power outages and fuel poverty, then that hopefully will reassure people who are about to start newbuilds, including self-builds, that their original plans don’t need altered."

Conservative net zero spokesman Douglas Lumsden said: “It is vital that Scotland achieves net zero and cut emissions – but banning heating systems that people rely on is not the right way to go about it.

“Many people living in rural, off-grid areas rely on wood burning stoves to heat their houses, especially in emergencies. This ban would leave them without anyway to heat their homes.

“Yet again, the SNP-Green Government are showing their contempt for rural Scotland, ploughing ahead with rash ideas without considering the significant impact on individuals and their lives.”

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