The SNP has been accused of “frightening incompetence” in tackling fuel poverty across Scotland.
The Government faced criticism from the Scottish Liberal Democrats calling for an acceleration of work to insulate fuel poor households.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the party’s leader, has claimed that at the current rate of progress of a government scheme intended to do so, it would take more than 300 years to insulate every household that is in fuel poverty.
The Warmer Homes Scotland scheme was introduced in 2015, having been designed to provide energy efficiency measures.
Those include wall and loft insulation, with over 27,000 homes and families estimated to have been supported so far across the country.
However, the Liberal Democrats have raised concerns over a decline in the number of households receiving support under the scheme.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) was submitted by the party into recipients of the support.
It found that the number has dropped from 5,326 in 2016/2017 to 2,904 in 2020/2021.
Cole-Hamilton warned that bills will continue to soar for families in the face of the cost-of-living crisis.
And the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader urged the Scottish Government to “put a rocket” under the Warmer Homes Scotland scheme.
“Only a tiny fraction of the number of households who are struggling with their fuel bills have been supported by this government,” he said.
“If the current rate of progress is maintained it will take the Scottish Government 301 years to insulate every household that is in fuel poverty.
“The snail’s pace this scheme has advanced at illustrates the SNP’s frightening incompetence when it comes to tackling fuel poverty and the cost-of-living crisis.
“Bills will continue to soar and families will continue to suffer unless more support is made available to those in need.
“Cutting energy bills through improving energy efficiency will not only lessen the burden on household finances, it will be good for the planet and bad for Vladimir Putin too.
“The Government need to put a rocket under the Warmer Homes Scotland scheme.”
Cole-Hamilton said that his party is pressing the UK Government to cancel this year’s energy price rise, expected to take place in October.
“Unlike the SNP, Scottish Liberal Democrats are focused on delivering robust and practical solutions,” he continued.
“That means implementing an emergency nationwide home insulation programme and introducing green upgrades to homes.
“We are also pressing the UK government to cancel this year’s energy price rise, introduce a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas producers and help households to weather the crisis.”
A Scottish Government Spokesperson said that Warmer Homes Scotland is a “demand-led” scheme.
They also said that a record level of investment is being made into the scheme, which has helped households that are in fuel poverty.
“The ongoing energy bills crisis has highlighted that short term help with household costs must go hand-in-hand with longer-term action on energy efficiency and heating programmes to secure warmer, greener and cheaper heating for everyone in Scotland,” they said.
“The Warmer Homes Scotland scheme is ultimately a demand-led scheme.
“Whilst delivery was impacted by the Covid pandemic – in common with all construction and home improvement work at the time – more than 5,300 households were supported in 2021/22 – among the highest figures since the scheme began.
“A record level of £55m million is being invested in the Warmer Homes Scotland scheme in 2022/23, which is helping households in fuel poverty make their homes warmer and more affordable to heat.”
The spokesperson explained that the Government will invest £1.8bn in the course of the current Parliament to support heat and energy efficiency.
They continued: “We have widened the eligibility criteria for funding this year to help even more households access support to make their homes warmer, greener and cheaper to run, and expanded the capacity of our Home Energy Scotland Advice service to help an extra 12,000 households a year receive free, impartial advice.
“Warmer Homes Scotland is by no means the extent of our investment in tackling fuel poverty, making our homes more energy efficient and reducing household bills.
“Through other initiatives such as our Area Based Schemes, over 150,000 households now live in homes which are warmer and cheaper to heat, with households saving an estimated £936m pounds on their fuel bills over the lifetime of these improvements.
“We will invest at least £1.8bn over the course of this parliament to support heat and energy efficiency.”