NO more woodburning stoves in new houses or renovations. It’s hardly the stuff of revolutions is it?

And yet for a lot of Scots living outside cities, it feels like a bit of a last straw.

I live in a village in north Fife, just 20 minutes’ drive from the centre of Dundee across the Tay Bridge. Not really in the middle of nowhere. And yet there is no bus service, no collection of recycling materials, no gritter during winter, no shop, no durable road repairs, and no end to flooded roads, detours, delays and expensive puncture repairs this winter.

Mains gas was never installed here – too few folk to justify the expense – and there have been five power failures so far this winter when locals were thrown back on to candles, tilly lamps, flasks, open fires, woodburning stoves … and one another.

The 40-odd people who live here, probably are pretty odd. Because we’ve adapted to living in a DIY community – learning to depend on one another and on ourselves, even though we pay full council tax.

Now, I’m not trying to suggest this village is some off-grid, back to nature alternative community – though plenty exist on the west coast of Scotland. Au contraire, this village is five minutes off the main A92 through Fife. And that’s the point.

You don’t need to live far from the madding crowd to be “out in the sticks” as far as service provision is concerned. And you either adapt to that, spend a lot of time complaining (pointlessly) or head for a town or city. That’s the backdrop for the “wood burning stove ban” in rural Scotland.

READ MORE: Has Scotland banned wood-burning stoves? The key new rules explained

There’s long been festering resentment at the lack of “mainstream” services, but folk have learned to work together and make the most of things.

During Storm Arwen, in November 2021, for example, all three roads out of this village were blocked by fallen trees. Happily, a team of with some very capable young locals with three chainsaws got one road clear by 8.30am, so folk travelling to work or hospital could get out. Long experience suggested there was no point waiting for the overstretched council team.

The trees were slowly removed, chopped up, stored and used in fires and wood-burning stoves by folk in tied houses on the landed estate – making use of nature’s windfall to compensate for having to rent draughty houses that are single glazed, cold and often damp.

No point complaining about any of that if you’re not ready to face eviction and a move out of the area, since there are next to no other affordable homes. And families with children are doubly stuck – social housing rarely provides three-bedroom houses.

So basically, the cavalry isn’t coming to help. Not with the latest Land Reform Act, not with tenancy laws, not with more secure housing.

Folk who live on the land, on a low income, are on their own. And the only change the Scottish Government is making is to block off the cheapest heating source for folk lucky enough to finally buy some old wreck and do it up.

Even brand new affordable social homes in Ardnamurchan have the same problem. I’ve heard families have moved out because they can’t afford the white meter heating. Even though many work for Forest Land Scotland and are surrounded by trees. Wood, wood, everywhere but not a log to burn.

And it’s this firm belief – that regulations in Scotland are devised for cities then imposed on the country – that makes stoves such an unexpectedly vexed issue.

Take the now cancelled plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas, where a Scottish Government consultation asked islanders how they’d feel if fishing and even swimming were to end without compensation or any local control over exactly where and when that shutdown might occur and which businesses might close. Mmmm.

Was anyone going to purr with anticipation over a proposal like that?

That textbook exercise in topdown control came hot on the heels of another – the new National Planning Framework (NPF4) – a powerful blueprint for planning slipped out in 2020 which swept away the old structure plans of Scotland’s 32 councils, two national parks and four city regions and replaced them all with one overarching policy framework that’s city-shaped and plans in great detail for rural decline.

The framework showcased space ports and the blue economy, but remained silent on vital, basic things like agriculture, land use and land reform – failing to build on the great ingenuity and courage of the Eiggs, Knoydarts, and generations of crofters and farmers who’ve clung on – despite the system – for decades.

Do professionals believe so little human capacity exists within rural Scotland that blank cheques for developers to build large urban style housing in profitable clumps are as good as it gets?

Why not plan a future with self-build/community-build as the rule not the exception – so that small groups of houses at low cost can be built precisely where people need them? Or is the great fear that such grassroots empowerment would actually work – keeping small schools open and thereby increasing council costs?

One section of NPF4 talks about creating “20-minute communities” where everything a citizen needs should be readily available on the doorstep. This would be funny if it wasn’t so nakedly urban and utterly impractical for everywhere else.

The Highlands contains areas the size of small European states without private childcare, hospital facilities, main roads or public toilets. Many elderly islanders are forced into mainland nursing homes because nothing is available within two hours of where they live, never mind 20 minutes. Islanders attend “local” government meetings via three-day round trips. Come on.

The whole 20-minute concept has been cut from an urban template and pasted on to rural communities (a fifth of the population) who need something bespoke and very different.

It feels like we are heading for a future where rural life basically means living in Glasgow’s overpriced “urban fringe” or in a volume house builder’s estate round Inverness while rural Scotland (95% of our land mass) becomes the preserve of wealthy second home owners fae sooth. What a travesty that would be, since a green future needs more folk on the land for renewable energy, forestry, leisure and food production without food miles.

Of course, NPF4 doesn’t actually say “move to Portree, Oban or Dumfries to make statutory services easier to deliver”. But that’s what it means.

So, if country dwellers are off the grid – fine. Just leave us alone. If we’re on, gonnae help with the serious problems before you start micro-managing our stoves?

Now to be clear, I’m pretty sure every island community is acutely aware of over-fishing, the climate crisis, exorbitant cost of relying on fossil fuels and health impacts of using wood-burning stoves.

But if rural Scots must accept living beyond the pale for most basic services, government must accept it cannae pick and choose.

If officialdom wants to intervene, it must first tackle the long list of serious problems endured by many rural Scots – no local GPs, no local Post Office (mine is nine miles away and I’m essentially suburban), no bus service, no affordable housing, no childminder, no dentist. But no. The first government intervention in country lives is to stop the only perk that comes from living near forests and woodlands.

Now to be fair, the new regulations ban stoves from new-build homes and renovations, not existing ones.

But it feels like wood has been slung in the “truly dirty” corner along with coal, oil and gas even though it’s renewable and most inhabitants of rural Scotland cannot afford an immediate switch to heat pumps.

If this is Holyrood’s main concern about rural living it is the weirdest and most unworldly priority.