The Scottish Government’s announcement today that it is committing to a review over the summer of the New Build Standard comes at the end of a fraught period of confusion and misinformation.

The belief spread rapidly that the new regulations, designed to force all new builds to install clean, rather than “direct emissions heating" represented a ban on wood stoves, or at least  indicated the beginning of their end.  This happened despite the reiteration by government that this was "not a blanket ban".

Those that warm their homes with wood burners and workers within the stove sector, regarded the regulations and recent Heat in Buildings consultation with suspicion and mistrust. One stove-fitter told us, his clients were saying, “They’ll have to kill me to take my stove out.”

The review announcement came just hours after The Herald launched a series on the future of how we heat our homes and the alternatives. Heat pumps: myths, truths and costs examines the challenges and barriers of choosing clean heat.

It’s that kind of anger, and the fear of rural communities that depend on this heating source - as well, it seems, as a nudge from Kate Forbes -  that has prompted Energy minister, Gillian Martin to state that she will be “reviewing the regulations on wood-burning stoves and biomass boilers with the intention to adapt them to address the issues of inflexibility that they have raised.”

It’s not without good cause that the New Build housing standards put fear into those working in the manufacturing, installation and maintenance industries. Many saw them as a sign of the direction of travel.

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If stoves were to be permitted only “when justified” or in “emergency situations” or “for resilience” now for new builds, what would that mean later, when, as the Heat in Buildings consultation proposes, legislation is created to link the shift from “polluting” heating to “clean” with the sale of properties?

As chimney sweep, Simon LlewelStove wolyn told us, "The consultation says that when a house is sold the buyer has to change their heating system within a grace period of two to five years. That’s going to make it very undesirable to put in a stove."

Whatever statements were made by the government, Mr Llewellyn saw nothing in the Heat in Buildings consultation, to give confidence that wood burning stoves would remain permitted when gas and oil boilers, and other “polluting” heating systems are phased out.

The story that wood burning stoves were banned spread in spite of the government’s repeated denial that there was no ban. In that sense it was not just the New Build standards themselves, but also misinformation that did some of the damage to business within that sector.

The reaction is also a reminder of how strongly decarbonisation needs to be linked to Just Transition – and how sensitive that process must be. Clarity of messaging is part of that. 

Scottish Conservative Rachel Hamilton who introduced the topical question in parliament said: “Last week the Scottish Conservatives met with 40 businesses and industry experts to hear about the impact of this ban. One company noted that since this ban they have seen their first month with zero installations.”

But do we want to blanket 'yes' to wood burning stoves and biomass? There are arguments that can be made for burning wood. As Gillian Martin pointed out many of those people installing wood burning stoves or biomass in new builds over the past 10 years have been doing it  "thinking that they want to have a sustainable fuels".

People will often say that burning wood is carbon neutral – and when woodland is managed in a sustainable, carbon neutral way it can be. But we should be careful of oversimplifying. It’s also the case that when scaled up, the burning of wood and biomass emits carbon dioxide at a rate far faster than new trees planted can sequester. There are also better uses of wood that keep that carbon in structures like buildings, rather than release it to the air.

For this reason, I hope this review will bring clarity, rather than, as Patrick Harvie said in response to the announcement “an unravelling”.