Scotland has made a commitment to be a net zero country by 2045. There is clearly a lot that needs to be done if that goal is to be achieved.

It's been identified that the heating systems in the buildings that we all live and work in are a significant contributor to carbon emissions in the country, so the Scottish Government intends to introduce new legislation to combat this – the Heat in Buildings Bill ("the Bill") – before the current term of the Scottish Parliament ends in May 2026.

The Scottish Government has just launched its public consultation ahead of the publication the draft Bill and it contains some interesting proposals that affect non-domestic properties:


There had been some speculation that the Scottish Government would look to replicate the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards ("MEES") that are in force in England & Wales for non-domestic properties. Under MEES, it's unlawful for a landlord to lease a non-domestic property which has an EPC rating of F or G.

However, the Scottish Government has clearly stated in the consultation that there's no intention of introducing a MEES regime in Scotland for non-domestic properties. The rationale behind this decision is that there's such a huge variety of commercial buildings in Scotland – ranging from sheds to hospitals, each with their own unique energy demands – that it's not feasible to set one global standard that all these disparate properties need to meet.

This represents a significant departure from the position south of the border, and those operating in both jurisdictions are going to have to get used to the divergent positions going forward when making their investment decisions.

Prohibition on "Polluting" Heating Systems by 2045

The Scottish Government intends to ban the use of what the consultation refers to as "polluting" heating systems from 2045. This means that properties (both domestic and non-domestic) will not be allowed to run heating systems which cause direct emissions to the atmosphere – gas or oil fired boilers or LPG systems for example.

This ban only applies to the "main" heating system in a property, so back up diesel generators for example will still be permitted.

In practice, this means that by 2045 properties will need to use "clean" heating systems instead, such as heat pumps or heat networks.

Purchaser to Make Upgrades

The consultation also proposes putting the burden of changing heating systems onto purchasers. The current proposal is that the Bill will require purchasers of properties to carry out works to replace a polluting heating system within a certain time period following completion of the purchase. The proposal is that this period will be between two and five years.

There will undoubtedly be challenges as a result of this approach, not least in terms of affordability and whether purchasers will have the funds available to carry out such significant works. It will be interesting to see what sort of finance products become available to meet this demand, or indeed whether we'll see reductions in sale prices to reflect the cost to the purchaser carrying out the improvement works to properties with polluting heating systems.

The consultation also mentions that these provisions may also apply to commercial long leases (i.e. those in excess of 20 years duration), although the consultation does not go into further detail on this. It's not immediately clear whether this means that tenants under long leases will be required to carry out upgrading works, but it's not difficult to see several practical difficulties with this.

Heat Networks

At the moment, heat networks are not widely used in Scotland, but the intention is to dramatically expand the capacity of heat networks in the country over the coming years in order to assist the transition to clean heating.

The consultation proposes that the Bill will provide local authorities with powers to require buildings located within a "Heat Network Zone" to end the use of polluting heating systems, either by connecting to a heat network or by installing some other clean heating system.

In this context, the consultation defines a Heat Network Zone as an area that a local authority determines would be suitable for a heat network – so a little bit woolly at the moment in terms of where these zones may be, and how many of them there will be.

If these proposals do eventually make it onto the statute book, they're going to represent a significant change from the way we currently heat our properties. The Scottish Government believes that we won't reach the net zero target of 2045 without changing the heating systems in the vast majority of buildings – so watch this space for more developments following the consultation and as the Bill makes its way through parliament. The consultation closes on 8 March 2024.

Click here for more information on the Heat in Buildings Bill proposals for residential properties. 


Graeme Imrie

Senior Associate