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by Louise Wilson
01 February 2024
Scottish Government home heating plans at ‘significant risk’

The Scottish Government wants to reduce emissions from heating in homes | Alamy Stock

Scottish Government home heating plans at ‘significant risk’

The Scottish Government will miss its target to phase out gas boilers in homes unless it significantly increases the scale and pace of activity, Audit Scotland has warned.

The target of reaching net zero by 2045 includes a goal to reduce emissions from heating as much as possible, meaning most households will need to change their heating systems.

But in a new report, auditors have said much of the planning for this change remains at an “early stage” and there are “significant risks ahead”.

One major hurdle will be the cost of delivering. It is estimated the switch to low-carbon heating could cost the public sector, businesses, and households £33bn in total. The Scottish Government has committed just £1.8bn so far.

Audit Scotland said more needs to be done to provide financial support to homeowners to help them switch, and the government needs to secure private finance and supply chain capacity to support the plans.

Stephen Boyle, the auditor general, said: “Getting most households in Scotland to change to low-carbon heating systems is a huge challenge. It is complex and relies upon a range of stakeholders and partners, including the public, the private sector and the UK Government. 

“The Scottish Government now needs to carefully consider how to maximise its public spending and set out a clear delivery plan. It also needs to help the private sector to roll out funding deals that will support people to change how they heat their homes.”

The Heat in Buildings Strategy was published in 2021 but has spent the time since then building a team to deliver it. Auditors say this was due to “resource constraints” but said the government should have addressed its capacity needs sooner.

And while it says good progress has been made since last year, officials need to produce an action plan to take the strategy forward by the end of this year. This should include clear targets, budgets and timescales for delivery.

The Scottish Government has urged people to respond to its consultation ahead of the Heat in Buildings Bill, and highlight programmes offering advice and support to property owners.

Zero Carbon Buildings Minister Patrick Harvie said: “I welcome this report. It has acknowledged that good progress has been made so far and also rightly highlighted the huge scale of the challenge to move to clean heat in our homes.

“That challenge is a big part of our climate ambitions which were overwhelmingly supported by parliament in 2019 and is also critical to a jobs and skills-rich future which frees people from the turbulence of global fossil fuel markets.”

Scottish Labour have labelled the report “damning” and urged the government to set out a “clear plan” on heating.

Sarah Boyack MSP said: “Warm words don’t heat homes – the SNP must listen to Audit Scotland’s stark warning and set out a real plan to deliver on their promises.”

The Existing Homes Alliance have said most investment is needed to deliver to policy. Public affairs lead Gillian Campbell said: “With nearly £600m of the Heat in Buildings budget currently unallocated, the Scottish Government must invest in scaling up the advice and support available so people are helped to upgrade their homes, cutting bills and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.”

Holyrood is hosting an event on ‘Heat, Housing and the Future of Net Zero Homes’ next month. Check out the event page for more information.

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