HELENSBURGH’S MP has said he is “disappointed but not surprised” to learn that his constituency is one of the worst-hit areas in Scotland for fuel poverty levels.

Argyll and Bute is ranked joint third in the country’s fuel poverty table, just below Highland and Na h-Eileanan Siar, according to research by fuel poverty campaigners Energy Action Scotland (EAS).

Almost a third of all households in Argyll and Bute – 32 per cent – are said to be living in fuel poverty, a measure which is defined by the Scottish Government as any household spending more than 10 per cent of their income on energy, after housing costs have been deducted.

The figure for Scotland as a whole was 24 per cent of all households.

And with energy bills widely expected to increase significantly in the next few months, Mr O’Hara has called for urgent action to help those most vulnerable to the worsening cost of living crisis.

He said: “I have repeatedly said people should not be penalised because they live on an island or in a rural area.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Thirty-two per cent of all households in Argyll and Bute are living in fuel poverty, according to EASThirty-two per cent of all households in Argyll and Bute are living in fuel poverty, according to EAS

“Fuel poverty is a very real concern in many areas of Argyll and Bute, where people are paying more to heat their homes, run vehicles to access employment, education and basic services, and also cope with the knock-on economic impact of Brexit and Covid.

“We are facing a very real cost of living crisis at the hands of the Tory government at Westminster.

“The situation is now infinitely worse for so many people who are being squeezed by cuts to Universal Credit, rising costs at the petrol pumps and now the impending energy price hike.

“People are already being faced with a choice between heating and eating, and I know recent reports have said these increased costs will push far more people - including many children - into poverty.

“The Scottish Government has done what it can to mitigate the impact of this with the introduction of the child winter heating assistance payment to help families of severely disabled children.

“However, it is critical the UK Government acts now to prevent more families and individuals being pushed into hardship and facing fuel poverty through no fault of their own.

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“The SNP has repeatedly called for a package of measures to help households get through the current Tory-made cost of living crisis.”

Helensburgh and Lomond’s MSP, Jackie Baillie, added: “At a time when fuel bills are increasing substantially, there will be even more people in fuel poverty, having to make hard choices about their household finances.

“It is really important that both the Scottish and UK governments work together and do more to end fuel poverty.

“As bills start to land on doorsteps, many more families will be feeling the pinch and action must be taken to alleviate the impact of high energy prices or even more people will be plunged into fuel poverty this winter.”

EAS chief executive Frazer Scott said: “This is not a problem that is going away; it is only likely to get worse.

“We estimate that as prices rocket over 100,000 more households will seriously struggle to heat their homes.

“We urgently need more government action to improve the energy efficiency of homes across the country but particularly targeted at households that suffer the greatest rates of fuel poverty.”

A Treasury spokesperson said: “Protecting consumers is our top priority which is why our energy price cap will remain in place.

“We are also supporting vulnerable and low-income households further through initiatives such as the £500m household support fund, warm home discount, winter fuel payments and cold weather payments.

“Domestic fuels such as gas and electricity are already subject to the reduced rate of five per cent of VAT.”