More than 200 rural homes are to be offered targeted support to cut energy bills as part of a review of fuel poverty.

Advisers from Home Energy Scotland (HES) will visit 220 properties under the £300,000 year-long scheme before a decision on rolling it out across the country.

It has been set up in response to recommendations of the fuel poverty strategic working group and rural fuel poverty taskforce.

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Charities including Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) welcomed the move.

It was announced by Communities Secretary Angela Constance.

She said: "We have made good progress and significant investment in tackling fuel poverty, supporting people who need help.

"However, there are still far too many people struggling with unaffordable energy costs.

"That is why we're developing a new long-term strategy to tackle fuel poverty and will introduce a Warm Homes Bill to set a new target.

"The HES pilot is about providing tailored support to people in the greatest need - helping them lower their fuel bills and hopefully move out of fuel poverty altogether."

The review panel will be made up of academics from the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University and Ulster University.

CAS energy spokesman Craig Salter said: "Locally-delivered, bespoke, face-to-face advice can be one of the most effective means of reaching and supporting the most vulnerable and remote consumers.

"We hope that this pilot will help to develop and strengthen energy outreach services in rural Scotland and support home-delivered services to achieve affordable warmth, particularly for vulnerable consumers."

Norman Kerr, director of Energy Action Scotland, said: "The Scottish Government's plans to pilot new ways of helping rural areas will be looked at carefully as households in rural areas have generally experienced more barriers to date in tackling fuel poverty.

"This is a set of plans that will need to be well-monitored and will need a corresponding budget over time in order to deliver measures that can make a real difference to Scottish households."

SFHA chief executive Mary Taylor said: "Fuel poverty is a major issue for many households across Scotland.

"While housing associations have the most energy-efficient homes in Scotland, these households tend to have lower incomes, so fuel poverty is still a significant issue for our members and their tenants."