SCOTLAND’S energy secretary has said people will die and almost a million people will be living in fuel poverty in Scotland as a result of the soaring cost of energy.

Michael Matheson blamed the UK Government for the crisis and argued he does not have the “levers” to help struggling Scots.

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show this morning, Mr Matheson was challenged over what he would do to help those facing a choice between food or heating their homes this year.

He had heard the words of a food bank manager, Audrey, who spoke through tears as she said that people were going to die as result of the 54 per cent rise in bills from April.

Mr Matheson: “ I think Audrey is right.

“And I think that's a real risk and why the action that been proposed by the UK government last week is insufficient to deal with the scale and the nature of the crisis.”

The energy secretary said that the Scottish Government’s modelling has shown that as many as 900,000 people will be plunged into fuel poverty or extreme fuel poverty as a result of the price hike, and called for the Chancellor convert the £200 energy bill ‘loan’ announced last week into a grant.  

He explained: “They should convert that to a grant because if fuel prices stay high over the course of the next couple of years, and that could be the case, it could actually end up forcing more homes into poverty because households are not only having to face high fuel prices but they are also having to face paying back the loan which the government has provided them with.”

Asked what he could do to help, Mr Matheson said: “Well the reality is that the vast majority have the tools to deal with this and actually controlled at a UK-level.”

He gave the example of the Scottish Government’s £1.8bn investment into energy efficiency programmes to try and reduce reliance on energy, as well as the winter fuel fund and the doubling of the Scottish child payment in April to £40, as ways in which Holyrood ministers were trying to help.

UK Government energy minister Greg Hands said the Treasury had provided the Scottish Government with £290m to use to further help people with their energy bills.

He dismissed the idea of converting the £200 discount on bills in October, which is to be repaid by customers, into a grant, saying the Government had to be “fiscally responsible”.

He explained: “We know that the UK Government we spend a lot of money during the pandemic on economic support and support for households.

“The £200 that people will get from October is designed to assist people into the next winter to pay for those bills and will be clawed back over a five year period. So that's quite a long period of time that people will have a chance to repay that.”

He pointed to the increase in the minimum wage from April, which he said would also give low earners an extra £1000 a year in their pockets, and said the rising energy costs were a “global” issue.

Mr Hands added: “We totally recognise the difficulties that many households will be facing with a rise in prices in terms of the gas prices and energy prices. Of course, those are global prices.

“The UK is not immune from the rise in worldwide energy prices, but we actually are doing a lot to make sure that households are in a better position.”