Scotland’s trade unions have joined forces with tenants unions, anti-poverty groups, environmentalists and academics to launch a nationwide campaign to upgrade Scotland’s homes.
Led by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), the ‘Our Climate, Our Homes’ campaign is calling for Councils to establish local energy companies and upgrade homes. The campaign is supported by Living Rent, the Poverty Alliance, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Common Weal, Energy Action Scotland, Energy Poverty Research Initiative, and leading academic on public ownership, Professor Andy Cumbers.
The trade union body is warning that, without action, spiralling energy prices and cuts to Universal Credit will create a perfect storm that will drive up fuel poverty. The latest figures show that 613,000 households in Scotland were in fuel poverty in 2019.
The STUC warns that Scotland’s buildings are responsible for almost a quarter of Scotland’s emissions and more than £33billion is needed to upgrade buildings in line with climate targets. However, the campaign highlights that investment in energy efficiency more than pays for itself and, if the Scottish Government support Councils to establish municipal energy companies, and set up their own National Infrastructure Company, more than 60,000 jobs could be created over ten years.
The campaign draws inspiration from Europe where a number of municipalities have successfully established publicly-owned renewable energy companies. It also highlights the successful transition from town gas to natural gas in the 1970s, which was led by National and Local Government. It contrasts these examples with the UK construction industry today, where price-fixing, fraud, and embezzlement are well-known problems alongside poor employment practices such as bogus self-employment; umbrella contracts, a lack of health and safety standards, and the systematic blacklisting of workers. It argues that municipal energy companies and a National Infrastructure Company could drive-up standards while also helping address skills gaps. As part of the campaign, the STUC has launched an e-action tool that allows constituents to email their local councillor regarding the campaign. The template email pushes local councillors to demand funding from the Scottish Government to create municipal energy companies. The email also demands political parties to commit, in principle, to setting up municipal energy companies, with appropriate financial support from the Scottish Government. Roz Foyer, STUC General Secretary, stated:
“Never has it been clearer that we need to upgrade our homes. Warmer homes mean healthier, happier people and less pressure on the NHS.
“Our campaign sets out how to do this in a way which creates good quality green jobs, tackles fuel poverty, reduces emissions, and provides better value for money for the taxpayer. With the right level of funding, Municipal Energy Companies could truly be transformative, and the creation of a National Infrastructure Company would ensure that Local Authorities can be adequately supported to decarbonise buildings.
“With COP26 approaching, we need to drastically reduce emissions from our homes, and this is the way to do it that creates good quality jobs and benefits us all.”