SCOTTISH Labour leader Richard Leonard wants to end fuel poverty in Scotland within 15 years.
He said it was “socially, economically and morally unacceptable” to have 40% of pensioners unable to heat their homes.
He is calling for “a decade of investment and a decade of action” to end the problem.
Charities have also called for urgent action to be taken to prevent condemning a “whole generation” to living in fuel poverty.
Leonard said fuel poverty – defined as a spending 10% or more of household income on fuel – affected one in four households in Scotland.
He said: “A particular concern is with pensioner households, where the figure is much higher – over 40%.
“So we have a situation where every winter pensioners have to choose between turning on the heating or paying for the groceries. In this day and age we should be giving people dignity in retirement.”
The Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill, published by the Scottish Government in June, set out new definitions of fuel poverty and targets. It stated no more than 5% of households in Scotland should be living in poverty by 2040.
But Leonard said it was “deeply disappointing and far too narrow” in its scope. He said: “We think what is needed is not the measurement of fuel poverty, but action to eradicate fuel poverty. It is not an unreasonable target to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland by 2032. We think that gives us a decade for investment and a decade for action.”
Jim Eadie, policy officer for housing for charity Age Scotland, said the Scottish Government bill to reduce fuel poverty was welcome as the first of its kind and would make a “real difference” to older people having difficulty to heat their homes.
But, he added: “We believe that the timeframe for achieving this by 2040 lacks ambition and that the failure to bring this forward risks condemning a whole generation to living in fuel poverty.”
The Scottish Government said it wanted a Scotland where everyone lives in a warm home, with access to “affordable, low-carbon energy”.
It added: “It is absolutely unacceptable for people to be forced to choose between having the heating on or cooking their dinner.
“By 2021 we will have allocated over £1 billion to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency – making people’s homes warmer and cheaper to heat.”