Calls have been made for action to protect Scotland's poorest in and prevent a rise in winter deaths in the cost of living crisis as a new survey found over nearly one in four Scots had not put their heating on by mid-October.

A survey by YouGov in July also found that 40% of Scots were either not very or not at all confident that they would be able to cope financially if energy prices this winter are as high as they were last winter.

Its polling found that 24% had not put their heating on as of October 16.

A separate study carried out by Opinium at the end of October for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition-fronted Warm This Winter campaign found that 52% were worried about being cold this winter.

The coalition has warned that excess winter deaths in Scotland could be even worse than last year if government does not take action.

READ MORE: Scots to lose out on £42m in lifeline energy bills crisis help

The campaigners are calling on the the UK government to bring in an Emergency Energy Tariff, based on the Energy Price Guarantee mechanism, in the Autumn Statement due on Wednesday. It would bring bills down for specific, targeted groups of households by an average of 46% for this winter.

The total number of excess winter deaths in Scotland, which covers a four-month period from December to March has soared from 1,320 in 2021/22 to 2,424 in 2022/23. Excess winter deaths accounts for the difference between the number of fatalities during the winter months and the average number of deaths during the preceding and following months.

Expert analysts expect energy prices to further rise in January after the price cap set by the energy regulator Ofgem dropped below £2000 for the first time since April, 2022.

The Herald:

This winter there is no sign of the reintroduction of a £400 energy bills support scheme to help households as was the case last winter when the UK Government's Energy Price Guarantee set average dual fuel bills at £2500 per year.

Ofgem will announce its latest price cap on Thursday, with energy consultancy Cornwall Insight predicting it will increase from the current £1,834 for a typical dual fuel household to £1,931 – a 5% jump to take effect from January to March.

The forecasts suggest that the typical bill will then fall to £1,853 from the start of April, but will not drop below today’s level until July next year.

An estimated 28 million households received a £66/£67 monthly discount on their energy bills between October 2022 and March 2023, under the scheme.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition says that a new tariff would use the existing Energy Price Guarantee mechanism to fix the unit costs and standing charges for vulnerable groups at a lower level.

Campaigners have suggested that this is fixed at the levels of energy bills in winter 2020/21, which would see eligible households’ monthly energy bills reduced by approximately £87 from current levels - a saving of around 46%.

Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition said: “The cost of doing nothing condemns people to living in cold damp homes this winter, will  mean more pressure on the NHS which is in an already fragile  state and lead to a rise in winter deaths.

"People wbo are already in debt from rising energy costs from last winter, will have less ability to pay bills which are at about the same levels as last winter."

It comes as Citizens Advice Scotland found almost half of people found that energy bills were their biggest financial concern this winter.

The charity has launched a new campaign called Worried This Winter to encourage people who are worried about energy bills to seek advice from the Citizens Advice network.

The campaign comes as a survey for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) indicates that energy bills are the biggest financial concern for 2.2 million people (48%) this winter.

The research based on analysis of YouGov polling also estimates that over 1.4 million people in Scotland (31%) are worried about being able to adequately heat their home this winter.

Launching the campaign, Citizens Advice Scotland chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “As the weather turns cold it’s perfectly understandable that people are worried about their energy bills and keeping their homes warm. We’ve faced the worst cost of living crisis in living memory and people have had their financial resilience worn down.

The Herald: Derek Mitchell, Chief Executive, Citizens Advice Scotland.DN Anderson

“Our new campaign says to people it’s okay to be worried this winter, because the CAB network is here to help you regardless of your background or circumstances, our advice is free, impartial, and confidential."

READ MORE: ScotGov advisers give warning as extreme fuel poverty levels double

Energy price analysts Cornwall Insight said recent milder weather was helping to bring down gas prices, and this could help reduce bills next year if it continued.

But “sharp price falls are not expected”, it said.

Dr Craig Lowrey, principal consultant at Cornwall Insight, said: “An unstable wholesale energy market, coupled with the UK’s reliance on energy imports, makes it inevitable that energy bills will rise from current levels.

“This leaves households facing yet another winter with bills hundreds of pounds higher than pre-pandemic levels, and affordable fixed deals few and far between.”

He added: “The King’s Speech acknowledged that it is our exposure to volatile international energy markets that has led to higher and less predictable bills.

“While we continue to advocate for immediate targeted support for vulnerable consumers, it is evident that the only enduring solution lies in transitioning the UK away from the influence of global energy prices towards sustainable, domestically sourced energy.”

Richard Neudegg, director of regulation at, said: “This price rise will come at the worst time of year for households, who will be using more energy at home during one of the coldest points of the winter.

“The price cap is no longer fit for purpose, and the system needs reforming to create a more competitive market, which also protects households.”

Government advisers have been calling for a new wave of financial support for Scotland's most vulnerable as it emerged the number of Scots households living in extreme fuel poverty has more than doubled since before the pandemic.

Concerns have been raised that the Scottish Government is way behind in a bid to hit a target that no more than 1% of households would be in extreme fuel poverty by 2040.

The Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel has raised concerns about the "particularly worrying" rising levels of fuel poverty in Scotland.

The panel which oversees the Scottish Government's progress in its strategy for tackling fuel poverty and acts as a statutory consultee is concerned over the current extreme fuel poverty rate from March which estimates there were 739,500 households in extreme fuel poverty - around 29% of homes. That's a rise from 12.4% in 2019.

Scottish Government energy minister Gillian Martin said of the Citizens Advice campaign: “Energy bills remain significantly higher than this time two years ago, so campaigns like this are vitally important to ensure consumers are receiving the support they need.

“I would encourage anybody who is struggling with high energy bills or wider debt issues to contact the Citizens Advice network online or through their very experienced local network of bureaux.

“Last year, the Citizens Advice network helped many people access support they were entitled to and I hope this campaign can help them achieve the same this winter.”

Analysis using the official data on excess winter deaths states that 521 people are estimated to have passed away while living in a cold damp home in Scotland in 2022/23.

The study which takes in Institute of Health Equity methodology that suggests 21.5% of excess winter deaths are caused by living in cold homes and has raised new concerns that not enough is being done to support those struggling to make ends meet.

According to the estimates some 284 would have died as a result of cold homes in 2021/22.