Alison Johnstone: Put energy into heating debate

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We’ve had a pretty mixed run of weather so far this autumn but most of us will have the heating cranked up by now. Too many of our homes remain a nightmare to heat.

This ­problem affects all types of housing, but it seems to be a particular issue for our tenement flats. Those with a ­combination of high ceilings and single ­glazing know that trying to heat them sometimes feel like a pointless and very expensive ­exercise.

Anyone who has lived in a flat like this also knows how it feels to have to hang washing indoors in the winter, so the stale air that you try to keep warm inside then gets damp. It’s an ongoing scandal that we still have such poor energy efficiency in a modern and relatively wealthy city.

Last week, I spoke at a conference organised by Energy Action Scotland. The figures on fuel poverty in Scotland remain stark – around 30 per cent of households are classed as living in fuel poverty, but this rises to 70 per cent in more rural areas.

Up in Aviemore, I was told that as well as the appalling rise in food banks, there are now fuel banks too, where locals chop wood to donate to the large number of ­people not on the gas-grid.

This might feel far-removed from city living but the impact is the same – poor health, high bills, energy wasted. If the Scottish Government is serious about social justice, then there are two things that need to happen on this pressing topic.

First, properties should be required to meet a decent standard of energy efficiency at the point of sale or when a lease is offered for rent, and homeowners should have access to more help to bring properties up to scratch. The Government is looking at introducing this sort of measure in 2018, but I want to see that brought forward.

Secondly, invest more. It’s reckoned that 3500 jobs could be created in the short-term and far more in the long-term if we got serious about upgrading housing. Is it too simplistic to think that the Government could bulk-buy double glazing units and then have a far more ambitious installation drive? And could we see this investment benefiting local firms rather than big business?

Each pound spent is going to ­create local jobs, cut bills and cut ­pollution. This investment will stop children having to do their homework in cold rooms. It will help with the root cause of so many health problems which end up costing society far more to treat.

Energy Action Scotland states that each pound spent on insulation saves the NHS 42p. This isn’t a new ­political problem but it’s clearly one that deserves more of our attention.

TV chiefs can’t tune out Sturgeon or Lucas

I’LL be congratulating Nicola Sturgeon on her appointment as First Minister this week.

I might be in a ­different party but no-one would deny that Nicola, left, is an ­impressive politician and I hope that she inspires more young women to get involved in public life.

Nicola is more than capable of debating with the likes of Cameron and Miliband and so is Green MP Caroline Lucas, so it’s totally unacceptable for the broadcasters to stitch up the election TV debates next year without them.

The Scandanivan countries manage just fine having six, seven or eight leaders on their debates, so come on BBC, ITV and Channel 4 – times have changed and people want to hear some new ideas.

Shock result for Spartans FC

I spent a brilliant afternoon at Spartans’ Ainslie Park the other week watching their Women’s club play Hibs Ladies. Receipts from the game went to the Jamie Skinner Foundation, which was set up after the tragic death of this 13 year-old last year on the pitch.

I’ve definitely noticed more defibrillators appearing in public places, but there’s clearly more work to do to make sure every one of us gets taught basic life-saving skills. This paper is doing a grand job with its Shockingly Easy campaign, but keep spreading the word to your workplace, gym, library or anywhere that could do with a defibrillator.