A FORMER SNP cabinet secretary who presided over a rise in fuel poverty is to earn up to £15,000 a year advising an energy company on reducing the problem.
MSP Alex Neil will earn the money working one day a month for renewables firm Ethx Energy.
The government body in charge of public appointments has warned him not to use privileged information to help his new employer, which supplies biomass district heating systems to councils, housing associations and other public bodies.
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Former Labour enterprise minister Allan Wilson also works for the Glasgow-based company.
According to his updated register of interests at Holyrood, Mr Neil started work for Ethx Energy last month and will “receive remuneration of between £10,001 and £15,000 per annum and work, on average, one day per month.”
Details of the appointment were released this week by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which approves jobs taken up by former ministers and civil servants.
It said Mr Neil would help Ethx Energy with public policy on fuel poverty, carbon emissions, ethics and identifying clients' needs.
It said that although Mr Neil’s ministerial duties “included dealing with fuel poverty and energy efficiency” he had not been involved in commercial dealings with contractors.
Nevertheless, the Committee said Mr Neil should only take up the post subject to a series of conditions, including not using or sharing privileged information gleaned in office.
It banned the Airdrie & Shotts MSP from providing advice to Ethx Energy on bids or contracts related to the Scottish Government until May 17, and from lobbying the Government or using government contacts on behalf of Ethx Energy until May 2018.
Fuel poverty is defined as a household spending 10 per cent of its income on energy bills.
The SNP Government’s target, inherited from a 2002 commitment, was to end fuel poverty by the end of November 2016, however the problem still affects around 30 per cent of homes.
As cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment, Mr Neil was in charge of tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency between May 2011 and September 2012.
According to the Scottish Parliament’s independent information centre, the number of Scottish households in fuel poverty rose from 787,000 in 2011 to 840,000 in 2012 and 940,000 in 2013.
The percentage of homes in fuel poverty rose from 33.2 to 35.2 to 39.1 over the same period.
At the time, Mr Neil blamed rising fuel prices for the increases.
After serving as Infrastructure Secretary, Mr Neil served as Health Secretary for two years and Social Justice Secretary for 18 months.
Mr Neil is the only former SNP minister and MSP with an outside job.
Former education secretary Michael Russell had been earning up to £20,000 a year as a part-time Professor in Scottish Culture and Governance at the University of Glasgow.
However the post was put on ice when he returned to cabinet as Brexit minister in September.
Asked about his record on fuel poverty, Mr Neil: “We were making a lot of headway on fuel poverty. Under me, we had record expenditure, but because of the massive increase at that time in energy prices, it was a real struggle to reduce the actual figures.”
An Ethx spokesman said: “Alex has a commitment to fighting fuel poverty. Now that he’s out of government he seems a good fit for us, and will help us grow the business.”