CHARITIES are calling for the Scottish Government to ensure the country’s crumbling buildings are fit for the future as a key part of reviving the economy during the emergence from the pandemic. 

The Existing Homes Alliance Scotland, a coalition of housing, environmental and energy advice organisations is pleading with ministers to prioritise retrofitting old buildings with sustainable heating systems as they draw up plans for the economy to recover. 

The plea comes amid concerns over increasing fuel poverty, with more people working from home and the economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis impacting on families across Scotland. 

The Scottish Government has stressed “investment in energy efficiency will continue to underpin a green economic recovery” from Covid-19. 

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee, Elizabeth Leighton, the director of Existing Homes Alliance Scotland, has appealed to MSPs to “investigate the role retrofit of our existing housing stock should play in Scotland’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis”. 

Ms Leighton has pointed to the Just Transition Commission, which has appealed for a “boost in investment for warner homes” as part of any green recovery. 
She added: “In Scotland we are fortunate to have a strong delivery structure in place with Energy Efficient Scotland, with programmes ready to accelerate and scale up.  

“Building retrofit can also help alleviate the impact the crisis is having on vulnerable and low-income households.

“Already the fuel poverty rate, as last reported, stands at 25 per cent, and we fear it will increase due to falling incomes and more people working from home.”

In a submission to the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on the Economic Recovery, the charity has called for “an ambitious, multi-year retrofit programme”, which it claims will “create and sustain quality jobs all over Scotland”.  

It added: “Building retrofit projects are value for money investments because they provide an immediate economic impact, all over the country. They are ‘shovel ready’ and use local labour and SMEs.”

“In Scotland we are fortunate to have a strong delivery structure in place with Energy Efficient Scotland, with programmes ready to accelerate and scale up.” 

A coalition of environmental experts has placed overhauling Scotland’s building stock with low carbon heating systems as a key method to kickstart a green recovery from Covid-19.

In a report issued to the Scottish Government, the Climate Emergency Response Group (CERG) has stressed that investing in green heating “will deliver a job creation stimulus in the building trades in every part of the country, with numerous social, health, and economic co-benefits”. 

The group has called on the Government to “phase out” high carbon fossil fuel boilers by 2025 and set a date for all gas boilers to be binned. 

CERG has also called on ministers to have invested £500 million of both public and private sector funding in low-carbon heat networks. 

Over the next three years, the group wants the Government to increase the number of homes upgraded every year to 10,000 and “install renewable heat technologies instead of fossil fuel heating as a default”. 

Mike Thornton, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said: “Energy efficiency retrofits can be transformative for individual householders, as well as for the economy and the climate on a large scale.  

“Thousands of households that have already benefited from warmer, comfier homes will sing their praises. The quality of our homes has never mattered more than in lockdown and making them fit for the future can cut emissions today, tackle fuel poverty and create jobs around the country.” 

The Government has committed, in law, to ensuring no more than five per cent of households are in fuel poverty and no more than 1% are in extreme fuel poverty by 2040. 

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “The pandemic has fundamentally changed every aspect of our lives. As we plan our strategic economic recovery, it is essential we take this opportunity to build a greener, fairer and more equal society and economy. 

“We are already taking bold action to tackle fuel poverty, improve energy efficiency, and reduce emissions from our homes and buildings.

This year we have allocated nearly £200m to our domestic and non-domestic energy efficiency programmes and by 2021 we will have allocated more than 
£1 billion towards making people’s homes warmer and cheaper to heat.

This investment has already lowered bills, reduced emissions and supported the creation of jobs, training opportunities and innovations. 

“This investment in energy efficiency will continue to underpin a green economic recovery.” 

 Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “No one should be without adequate heat, light and hot food in 21st century Scotland.  

 “It’s sensible to make retrofitting part of the recovery agenda. It will make homes better, cut people’s cost of living, support jobs and help Scotland meet its climate targets. 

“But the Scottish Government also needs to invest in high-quality social housebuilding to ensure everyone who needs one has a good, green home to live in. 

“There is support from the Home Energy Trust for people who have got into difficulty with fuel bills due to the health crisis.”