Regulator Ofgem last week forecast that energy bills will rise by an average of £693 a year from April, while the Bank of England has warned of the biggest fall in living standards since comparable records began three decades ago.
Mr Matheson said up to 900,000 homes in Scotland could be either in fuel poverty or extreme fuel povery as a result of the price rises.
Meanwhile, Tesco chairman John Allan has said the worst of the rising cost of food is “yet to come”. Food prices at the supermarket chain grew by only one per cent in the last quarter but could rise by five per cent in the coming months.
Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey has warned that inflation could reach as high as 7.25 per cent by April and is unlikely to fall back to normal levels for two years.
On top of all this, households face paying more in National Insurance from April, and the UK Government has cut the extra £20 a week in Universal Credit that was introduced during the pandemic.
The TUC predicts a “perfect storm” for millions of low-paid workers, and research today for a coalition of charities warns that almost half of parents in Scotland are already finding it harder to pay their bills.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week promised households a £200 discount on power bills that will have to be repaid over five years. Scotland will receive proportionate Barnett consequentials. In the face of such a tight squeeze this seems likely only to scratch the surface. At the very least, Mr Sunak should consider making the £200 discount a grant rather than a loan.
As the crisis deepens, calls for more action will grow louder. Energy giant BP is expected to reveal a return to multibillion-dollar profits this week, following similar announcements last week from Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron.
Mr Sunak has not ruled out stepping in with more support for struggling households. Perhaps that extra support should be funded at least in part by a windfall tax on those companies that appear to be benefiting from higher energy costs.