The Scottish Government has indicated it could "review" the guidance around the "emergency" exemption in the new wood-burning stoves ban.

News of the possible change came after architects, industry bodies, and local politicians said there was confusion over what the New Build Heat Standard would allow.

There is also seemingly uncertainty in the government itself. 

The Herald on Sunday understands that last week, civil servants in the Building Services Division told local authority verifiers - those responsible for administering the building standards system - that stoves would not be acceptable under the emergency exemption.

However, on Tuesday, after news of the ban sparked a social media storm, the Scottish Government insisted that “wood-burning stoves and other heating systems that cause emissions can also still be installed in new homes to provide emergency heating, where a need can be justified.”

READ MORE: Scottish ban on wood burning stoves in new builds takes effect

The new regulations require all new Scottish homes and buildings to install “climate-friendly heating systems” and forbid the use of direct emission heating (DEH) systems in any house where the building warrant was applied for after April 1.

Effectively, this means that new houses and conversions are not allowed to use gas or oil boilers, or any form of bioenergy where electricity or heat is generated from organic matter such as wood.

Instead, housebuilders are expected to use what are known as zero DEH systems such as heat pumps, solar thermal storage systems or electric storage heaters.

However, the new rules say that there are exceptions for DEH systems permitted for emergency heating.

Those applying for the exemption will need to show the “risk that failure of the normal heating system creates for occupants and the likelihood of such a failure (e.g. increased risk of loss of electrical supply in remote rural areas due to adverse weather)”.

The regulations state that in "smaller buildings, including dwellings, there will be little justification to install emergency heating as heat demand on failure of the normal heating system can usually be addressed simply and easily through use of independent, portable heaters".

The Stove Industry Association pointed out this week that many portable heating solutions require electricity to function, making them useless during a power cut, the sort of emergency they would be expected to mitigate.

Yesterday, writing in The National, Kate Forbes, the SNP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch said the wording for "what constitutes an emergency is woolly.”

The former finance secretary added: "A power cut affects every home equally badly, irrespective of when the house was built.

"The well-insulated modern home may last a bit longer, but with several days of power cuts these days, even they might need to stick a fire on.

"You’ll be able to spot the new builds in a power cut easily – they’ll all be huddled around a big bonfire in the garden trying to stay warm."

The Herald:

READ MORE: Explained: Has Scotland banned wood-burning stoves?

Ben Addy, an award-winning architect, whose practice, Moxon, is based in Crathie said the proposals were “crazy.”

He told The Herald on Sunday: “The emphasis on using electricity for generation of heat through ground sources or air source heat pumps, heat recovery, all those sorts of things are excellent. It is exactly what should be in the domestic regulations.

“But the idea of basically banning stoves and fireplaces I think is just wrong on so many levels, and it's such a basic error as well.

“It's an unforced error because on the one hand, you need backup heat of some sorts and in rural location you have no other option, unless they're proposing that the option for backup heat is to plug in a diesel generator, and then power your own electricity.

“That's just ridiculous in his own right.”

"For many, the fuel source is local, waste timber products, forest thinnings," he added.

“We are not talking about forests in Newfoundland being felled, turned into pellets, shipped across the Atlantic and burned at a power station.

“We're talking about locally grown and properly husbanded woodland in a rural location.”

He also suggested the cost of installing a stove would effectively make any exemption redundant.

“To get a stove fitted you're talking about a few thousand pounds for the stove itself, a couple of thousand pounds for the flue or the chimney and the installation of everything.

“How realistic a proposition is that for something that you're only allowed to use as some sort of emergency backup? I don't know how they police that anyway.”

“It looks like a policy that's been put together for an urban situation,” he added.

Donald Macsween, a crofter and independent councillor for An Taobh Siar Agus Nis on Lewis said the reality of living in rural areas had not been taken into consideration by ministers. 

"You can build your new home with an air source or a ground source heat pump or whatever, but what happens when that breaks down, which it inevitably will?

"What if it breaks down between Christmas and New Year when it's hard to get somebody? What if the part that you're looking for has to come in on the ferry, and we don't know what the ferry situation is going to be like?" 

“The problem that I see is that there is nobody in the room with opinions like me or a perspective like me," he added.

“You know, somebody from the same geographical region as me who's able to go ‘hang on a second, what about this? What about that?"

READ MORE: Wood-burning stoves v heat pumps: an emissions question

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There is no ban on wood-burning stoves.

“The New Build Heat Standard applies only to new buildings applying for a building warrant from 1 April 2024. Under the Standard wood burning stoves can still be installed in new homes to provide emergency heating where required.

"This recognises the unique needs of Scotland’s rural communities.

“Proposals for the New Build Heat Standard were subject to full consultation in 2021 and again in 2022, and both consultations showed strong support.

“Heating our homes and buildings represents about a fifth of Scotland’s carbon emissions so tackling the climate emergency requires us to address these emissions.

"That is why the Scottish Government has recently finished consulting on plans for introducing clean heating systems in existing homes and buildings and is currently considering responses.

“This consultation recognised that bioenergy systems, like wood-burning stoves, are a renewable, and in many cases, a net zero form of heating which may be the best solution for some homes – especially in rural Scotland.

“That is why we asked for views on how to ensure a flexible approach which still enables the use of bioenergy heating systems as we move towards net zero.

“We will continue engaging with and supporting local authorities to ensure that the regulations are implemented appropriately. This will allow us to identify any need to review elements of the guidance if required - this is part of the regular implementation process.”