One in seven Scots find energy bills unaffordable amid warnings over cost of living crisis

Around 640,000 people in Scotland – about one in seven - find their energy bills unaffordable as a result of low incomes, new analysis has found, amid warnings that families could be £1,200 a year worse off.

One in seven find energy bills unaffordable.
One in seven find energy bills unaffordable.

The study, from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), found that 36 per cent of adults in Scotland find their energy bills unaffordable. Of these people 40 per cent cite low incomes as a reason. Twelve per cent say inconsistent incomes make it difficult to afford to pay or their utilities.

This comes as the SNP warned that Boris Johnson is "leaving millions of families in the cold" amid the cost of living crisis, which is expected to leave families £1,200 worse off from April.

The CAS findings come amid soaring energy bills and reductions to Universal Credit, with Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) warning that the number of people who find their bills unaffordable could continue to rise.

The energy price cap is due to increase in April, with the industry warning bills could increase by as much as 50 per cent. A rise of 50 per cent would see the cap hit around £1,916. The current cap is £1,277 a year for customers on default tariffs and £1,309 for those on pre-payment deals.

CAS fair markets policy officer Michael O’Brien said that pre-pandemic, a quarter of Scottish households were already living in fuel poverty.

He said: “While energy bills have soared in recent months, it’s important to understand that households on low incomes were struggling with their energy costs beforehand. With prices in the shops rising and a substantial increase to the energy price cap expected in April, the coming weeks and months could be very challenging for consumers on low incomes.

“We’d like to see policymakers focus on ways to get more money into people’s pockets, but we’re here to help people now.”

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Ian Blackford MP warned that Scots were facing a crisis caused by a "toxic concoction" of Tory cuts, tax hikes, soaring inflation and energy bills.

The SNP Westminster leader said the majority of families will be worse off in 2022 unless the UK government introduces an emergency package of support, including a low income energy payment, matching the Scottish Child Payment across the UK, reversing the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit, and raising the minimum wage and statutory sick pay to the real living wage of £9.90 an hour.

It comes as a survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this week found that two thirds of people said their cost of living has increased in the last month. Of those, a quarter said they were being forced to dip into their savings to cover increased costs, and the same proportion said they had cut back on essentials, including food shopping.

Mr Blackford said: "Boris Johnson is leaving millions of families in the cold this winter by failing to tackle the catastrophic Tory cost of living crisis that has engulfed the UK. The Prime Minister bears the blame for this crisis, which has been caused by a toxic concoction of Tory cuts, tax hikes, rising inflation and soaring energy bills. It beggars belief that he's failed to lift a finger to support families and reverse the damage he has caused.

"People will find it particularly galling that Boris Johnson has spent so much time supplementing his own income and soliciting dodgy donations for luxury holidays and home refurbishments, but seemingly has no interest in helping struggling families. This Tory crisis will leave the majority of middle and low income families hundreds or thousands of pounds worse off - unless the Prime Minister urgently gets a grip.”

He added: “The UK already has the worst levels of poverty and inequality in north west Europe. Unless urgent action is taken now, the Tories will push millions more into hardship and poverty. There is no time to waste.”

Separately, Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves called on the Government to take VAT off gas and electricity prices and unveiled her party’s plans for a windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas producers to help cut energy bills for consumers.

Revealing a £6.6bn package of proposals, Ms Reeves said: "The Prime Minister was the biggest advocate for cutting VAT on gas and electricity bills during the European referendum. But now when cutting those bills would make more difference than ever, the Prime Minister says no.

"Well, I say that bills can't be paid on broken promises. The Government should honour that commitment that the Prime Minister made to take VAT off gas and electricity prices. If this isn't the time to do it, then frankly I don't know when is."

She said Labour would "cut VAT on gas and electricity bills from five per cent to zero for one year", which she said would save households £100 a year, when expected rises are taken into consideration.

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