SNP - Tom Wills

Chilly isles should get cold snap bonus

SHETLAND and Orkney have lost out on government “cold weather payments” handed out to parts of the south of England, according to northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

In a bid to rectify the situation, the MP has written to work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper asking her to incorporate “wind chill” into the equation used to trigger payments.

Cold weather payments of £25 are granted to people on benefits and low incomes when the average temperature falls to zero or less over seven consecutive days from November to March.

However despite experiencing freezing conditions for almost one month, the northern isles have only received one payment compared to three given out to people living in Essex.

Mr Carmichael said that the figures are skewed by not taking into account the impact of wind, which can have a huge impact on how cold it feels.

Shetland meteorologist Dave Wheeler explained yesterday (Tuesday) that while the air temperature at his home on Fair Isle was 5°C, the 25 mph south easterly wind lowered the temperature to the wind chill equivalent of -7°C.

“Personally I would say that wind chill is more important than air temperature. For example you can sun bathe at an alpine ski resort in temperatures below freezing, but the slightest wind could change your tan into frostbite very quickly,” Mr Wheeler said.

Mr Carmichael said: “Local people currently suffering a cold snap will, I suspect, be less than impressed to learn that people in Essex have benefited from extra money that is denied to people in the isles.

“I do not grudge the people of Essex these payments but this illustrates that the system for triggering the payments is in urgent need of an overhaul.

“The long cold winters in the northern isles do bring extreme costs especially for people who are least able to afford them. We have an already high level of fuel poverty. This is the sort of change that could be the first step towards meaningful change in that.”

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