THE number of Scottish households in fuel poverty fell by nearly 100,000 last year.

Scottish Government figures released yesterday show a decrease from 748,000 in 2015 to 649,000 in 2016.

A household is in fuel poverty if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it would be required to spend more than 10 per cent of its income on all fuel use.

Norman Kerr, Director of Energy Action Scotland (EAS), has welcomed the news but said more needs to be done.

He said: “The news that fewer people are living in cold damp homes is to be welcomed but unfortunately a return to 2007 levels of fuel poverty is far from ‘job done’. “About a third of the drop in the annual fuel poverty level in 2016 is due to making homes in Scotland more energy efficient, while around two thirds are due to lower domestic energy prices.

“This underlines how important it is that the energy efficiency of homes should continue to be improved, particularly as it is unlikely that energy prices will remain relatively low as recent increases in electricity prices demonstrate.”

The statistics show that the overall level of fuel poverty amongst Scottish households is down about four percentage points and is now at 26.5 per cent.

Housing associations have the most energy efficient stock by tenure and their overall fuel poverty level has decreased by 0.5 per cent.

However, at 27 per cent, there are more housing association households in fuel poverty compared to the national average of 26.5 per cent.

The Scottish House Condition Survey comes as the Scottish Government consults on proposals for a new fuel poverty strategy.

The publication of the new draft strategy follows a failure to meet a previous target to end fuel poverty by November 2016.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Association (SFHA) called on the Scottish Government to take concerted action to eliminate fuel poverty.

Sarah Boyack, SFHA head of public affairs, said fuel poverty levels still remain “unacceptably high”.

She added: “It is particularly concerning that the percentage of housing association households in fuel poverty is higher than the overall national average, despite their housing being the most energy efficient.

“The figures demonstrate that social landlords need more support to further improve the energy efficiency of their stock in order to help their tenants who are on lower incomes and therefore more vulnerable to fuel poverty.

“These latest figures should act as a wake-up call, with almost a third of households in Scotland still in fuel poverty.

“These figures are timely as they come a week before the Scottish Government unveils its draft budget for 2018–19 and with a consultation open on a new Fuel Poverty Strategy for Scotland. The government must take this opportunity to ramp up investment to eliminate fuel poverty once and for all.”