Sturgeon shamed as SNP axes £133m energy scheme to slash bills

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been slammed over the SNP’s “empty promises”, as Scottish ministers are reportedly looking to scrap nearly £133 million off this year’s budget for energy efficiency schemes. These schemes were aimed at improving the efficiency of public buildings, and helping Scottish families insulate their homes. This would decrease their reliance on expensive natural gas, hence lower bills, while also helping reach the UK’s legally binding commitments to reach net zero. This move comes as Ms Sturgeon flies to Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt for the global climate conference COP27, which had led many to accuse her of “hypocrisy”.

The schemes that have been cut also include £10million off the budget for Funding For More Homes, which helped boost the installation of low carbon heating systems like heat pumps.

According to the Herald, the largest cut was made to the Heat in Buildings capital grants, which aimed to transform Scotland’s buildings and their heating systems, in a bid to address both fuel poverty and net zero.

The scheme has lost some of its £45million budget, which was used with a goal of transforming a million homes and the equivalent of 50,000 non-domestic buildings to convert to zero emissions heat by the end of the decade.

Scottish Labour slammed the SNP for “shameful” cuts that are made at a time when households across the country are grappling with soaring energy bills, and fuel poverty rates are rising.

Scottish Labour net zero, energy and transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: “A year ago Nicola Sturgeon promised to make Scotland a world-leader in the green revolution, but these empty promises are in tatters.

“The cost of living crisis and the climate emergency are two of the urgent challenges our country faces, but the SNP-Green government have decided to raid the funds that can help us tackle both.

“Energy bills are soaring and people are choosing between heating and eating – but instead of helping more people insulate their homes, the SNP-Green government are gutting support schemes.

“Making these damaging cuts as COP27 gets underway lays bare the rank hypocrisy hiding behind this government’s environmental rhetoric, as well as their failure to use the powers they have to help with the cost of living crisis.”

The Scottish government is also planning to slash £1.75million a year from the £5million C02 Utilisation Challenge Fund, which was launched last year. 

The two-year scheme aimed to convert carbon dioxide, the largest contributor the greenhouse gas emissions, and use it to provide valuable byproducts like synthetic fuels and proteins used in aquaculture.

Another £2.4million is set to be axed from the government’s budget for local councils’ heat and energy efficiency strategies. Meanwhile, about £91.83million of the proposed budget cuts are aimed at net zero grant schemes.

Scotland is reportedly behind on its targets to retrofit almost a million homes with green energy efficiency upgrades, and is desperately behind schedule, according to the Herald. 

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A Scottish Government spokesman told the Herald: “We are committed to tackling fuel poverty – not least by delivering on our Fuel Poverty and Heat in Buildings strategies, which will help make homes warmer, greener and cheaper to run.

“The Spending Review earlier this year confirmed our commitment to allocate at least £1.8 billion over the course of this parliament to insulate and to install modern climate-friendly heating in homes and other buildings.

“The Emergency Budget Review reviewed all devolved spending planned for 2022-23. As part of this, revisions were made to budget allocations for some demand-led grant schemes within the heat and energy efficiency portfolio – as a result of lower than forecasted uptake.

“We remain committed to our current plans, which show a 27% increase across energy programmes next year. We will continue to deliver a range of measures to tackle fuel poverty and deliver exciting new green heat and energy efficiency projects, including key initiatives such as our Area Based Schemes and Warmer Homes Scotland.”

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