DR Brenda Boardman makes valid points about fuel poverty but your article misrepresents the Scottish Government's record on this issue ("'Feeble' SNP blamed as fuel poverty soars"), The Herald, September 3) .

The Scottish Government is using all available mechanisms within its limited devolved powers to tackle fuel poverty in Scotland. We have allocated a £65 million budget to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency across Scotland's households in 2012/13, and have a raft of measures in place to support families struggling with heating bills.

In total we are spending around £250m over the spending review period. In contrast, Westminster has cut its fuel poverty funding in England year on year, from £350m in 2010/11 to £100m in 2012/13 and to zero thereafter – it will be the only country in the UK not to have government-backed support on this vital issue.

We are taking these actions against the backdrop of energy companies continuing to introduce punishing price rises. That is why we are continuing to lobby the UK Government to take a firmer stance with energy companies – encouraging them to cut their prices in order to help boost household incomes.

Dr Boardman calls for Low Carbon Zones led by local councils to tackle fuel poverty. We agree and our National Retrofit Programme (NRP) will take an area-based approach to tackling fuel poverty with a key role for local councils. Our programme, which I announced to Parliament in June, will start in 2013 and will see us work in partnership with energy companies to identify £200m a year to improve the energy efficiency ratings of Scotland's older housing stock – another measure that will drive down the number of households in fuel poverty. This programme will build on the successes of current fuel poverty and energy efficiency programmes, which are due to save households across Scotland some £700 million in total.

We agree with Dr Boardman on many issues. While she has raised concerns about insulation, loft insulation is one of the most cost-effective emission-saving measures available. The Committee on Climate Change has raised concerns that without other support for this kind of measure by the Scottish Government, installations will decline under the Green Deal. So loft insulation will continue to be an important part of our strategy, helping to bring down household bills. Our NRP, working alongside the new Energy Company Obligation, will include a strong focus on more expensive measures such as solid wall insulation to improve hard-to-treat homes. There are also other Scottish Government initiatives on microgeneration and renewables that will help bring down bills – and carbon emissions.

Dr Boardman calls for a new standard for social housing going beyond the Decent Homes standard in England. We are consulting on detailed proposals for an Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing, going beyond the current Scottish Housing Quality Standard, and based on specific property types. In regard to minimum standards of energy efficiency in the private sector, proposals are under consideration in the consultation on the strategy.

Scotland is an energy-rich nation, and people should live in warm, comfortable homes. In spite of limited powers and drastic cuts from the Westminster Government we are continuing to deliver on that priority.

Alex Neil,

Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment,

The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.

YOUR leader ("Fuel poverty is a nationwide issue", September 3) highlights how overdue is the conference on a sustainable housing strategy to tackle this problem.

The Scottish Government's review shows that households are being pushed into fuel poverty due to the dramatic rises in fuel prices and the stagnation of incomes. Scottish Hydro customers of Scottish and Southern Energy are currently awaiting letters to tell them by how much their bills will increase from October 16. We would be naive to believe the "9% on the average bill" figure which SSE has quoted. The past two increases for Hydro's customers have been well above SSE's quoted average. An added complication this time is the so-called "simplification" of tariffs. Will this mean the end of the cheaper night-time tariff?

Because so many buildings in Scotland are not suitable for cavity wall insulation, it is important for governments to find a way of making it affordable to put an effective insulated layer inside each room against the outer walls. Reducing VAT on such construction would be an essential first step but, unless it is also possible to work out some sort of grant scheme, many homes will remain in their current state. The conference is crucial to making progress on this.

As you say, "redistributing" by the UK Government of the flat rate of winter fuel payments to take account of the longer heating season required in Scotland would also be welcome.

R J Ardern,

26A Southside Road, Inverness.