NEARLY 1m Scots households will be trapped in extreme fuel poverty by January, even with planned government support leaving even middle-income households struggling to pay their bills, according to new research.

Research by academics a the University of York, which one charity described as "terrifying" says that over one in three Scots households (38.8%) will be by hit with the highest rates of fuel poverty - where more than 20% of a household's net income is spent on energy costs.

The analysis also found that of 12 UK regions studied, only Northern Ireland, where 51.4% will be affected, will be more badly hit by extreme fuel poverty than Scotland.

It shows a dramatic rise in the number that will be hit since Energy Action Scotland last year raised concerns there were 12.4% or 311,000 households in that position before the pandemic.

The study also predicts nearly one in four (562,240) Scots households will have to spend 30% or more of income on energy.

The research, based on the latest predictions for the energy bill rises, found that 1.827m Scots households will be hit by fuel poverty to some degree - traditionally defined as when energy costs exceed 10% of a household's net income.

That is 1.2m more than pre-pandemic levels, when 24% or 602,400 households were in fuel poverty.

The study by academics at the University of York predicts that there will be nearly three in four Scots households (72.8%) in fuel poverty even with the £400 fuel rebate being offered by the government.

Stephanie Millar, Citizens Advice Scotland's social justice spokesman said government had to act now to prevent death this winter.

She said of the study: "This is really stark. There’s no way to sugar-coat it. People will die this winter if government doesn’t act to help them through this crisis. They will freeze or they will starve, or both. That’s what we are talking about here.


"The CAB network and other charities will do what we can to help people, but the scale of the crisis is as big as the pandemic, so it needs a similar response from government.”

Rocio Concha, director of policy with the consumer organisation Which added: “The government must move quickly to increase the amount of financial support it is providing to help households make ends meet and work with businesses to look at what more they can do for those facing serious financial hardship," she said.

The study published by the Child Poverty Action Group further estimates that 86.4% of pensioner couples are expected to fall into fuel poverty as inflation soared to a 40-year high of 10.1%, driven by soaring prices of food and fuel.

The SNP’s shadow chancellor, Alison Thewliss said the study was "horrifying" and that it "must finally alert the UK government to come out of hiding" to address the cost of living crisis.

“So far, the Prime Minister and Chancellor have done nothing to help ease the squeeze for households, with rising bills and soaring inflation reaching levels not seen since Margaret Thatcher," she said.

“There can be no more delays. The Prime Minister and Chancellor must finally recall Parliament and deliver an emergency budget which will freeze the energy price cap rise, scrap VAT on fuel and deliver meaningful and long-lasting financial support to households.

“Failure to do so could have devastating consequences for millions of families across these islands.

“For as long as the UK government fail to act, Scotland’s need for independence grows. Only with the full powers independence brings can we support families properly, and escape Westminster control for good.”

The research was based on the latest predictions by respected analysists Cornwall Insight which warned that the cost of gas and electricity for a typical UK household on default tariffs will rise to £4200 a year for in the three months from the beginning of January.

Most predict that bills are set to soar to around £3,600 a year in October, from £1,971 today before a further rise in the New Year.

HeraldScotland: Age Scotland chief executive Brian Sloan

Age Scotland’s chief executive, Brian Sloan, said the findings were "terrifying".

"Our worst fears are being realised, and this is before we get confirmation of the next Ofgem price cap announcement," he said.

“Fuel poverty is now a very real threat for the majority of Scottish households, and the grim reality is that people will die without urgent preventative action from governments. Even the maximum cost of living payment is not enough to mitigate against these costs, and more must be done.

“We’re hearing from an increasing number of older people who are finding it near impossible to pay their energy bills, having cut down on all but the essentials, and who will now be at risk of falling into unmanageable debt as a result. These debts will become ever harder to clear as their outgoings from fixed incomes continue to rise."

A UK government spokesman said: “We know people are concerned about rising prices, which is why we are delivering £1,200 extra support to eight million of the most vulnerable households in the UK this year.

“Through our £37bn support package we are also saving the typical employee over £330 a year through a tax cut in July, allowing people on Universal Credit to keep £1,000 more of what they earn and cutting fuel duty by 5p saving a typical family £100.

“We have also provided the Scottish Government with a record £41 billion settlement for the next three years and the Scottish Government has significant control over taxes and benefits.”

Meanwhile the Labour Party has written to Boris Johnson, as well as the two Tory leadership contenders, demanding that Parliament returns early in order to tackle soaring energy bills.

Sir Keir Starmer has unveiled a “fully costed” £29 billion plan to freeze the cap at the current level of £1,971 for six months from October, saving the average household £1,000.

The call for MPs to return two weeks early on August 22 comes ahead of the announcement of the new energy price cap at the end of the month, which Labour has called a “crucial deadline” for Government action.

In the letter, Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow leader of the House of Commons, told Mr Johnson that the country faces an “urgent choice”.

She said: “Across Britain, people are having to make unthinkable choices about how to pay their bills, causing endless worry for households and businesses.

“That is why I am writing to you today to urge you to bring Parliament back early on Monday, August 22 so that we can freeze the energy price cap now ahead of winter.

“In seven days, Ofgem will announce the rise of the energy price cap.

“Against the backdrop of a rise in inflation to 10.1%, this won’t just send households into a further spiral of worry, pushing them to cut back even further ahead of the winter. But it will create another shock for our economy. With businesses and households on the brink, we cannot wait to act.

“Families deserve a government that is on their side, and is ready to take the action needed now to meet the scale of this national emergency. I urge you to adopt Labour’s plan and take action to freeze the price cap now.”