The Scottish Government is to explore ways of taking back £400 cost of living payments given to people with multiple homes.

Public finance minister Tom Arthur told MSPs it was “clearly wrong” that people with enough money for more than one house should get help with their energy bills.

The measure was announced by Rishi Sunak last month as part of his £21bn emergency package.

It will see £400 knocked off the energy bill of every household in the country.

The Chancellor said the easiest way to get the cash to those most in need was to make the help universal.

But in Holyrood on Wednesday, Scottish Labour MSP Mark Griffin said it needed to be targetted. 

Mr Griffin said: “We often talk about someone having to choose between heating and eating, but actually, the reality is that thousands will choose between starving or freezing.

“People will die this winter. That’s a crisis that will only get worse, so the Government must respond with action.

“The irony won’t be lost on anyone, then, that those best off, those able to run not one, but two homes, are set to pocket a windfall of almost £10 million between them, simply because they have another home that’s not their main residence.”

He suggested multiple payments would only “reward” people on higher incomes.

Mr Arthur confirmed the Scottish Government will look at what action they could take. He told MSPs they were working with Cosla to explore options for recovering the money and how best to use it.

The SNP minister said: “In this cost-of-living crisis, it is vital resources are directed at those who need it most, so it is clearly wrong that second home owners or those who own long-term empty homes benefit from a second £400 energy rebate.

“The Scottish Government will work with Cosla and local government to examine how to recover this money, including through a council tax levy.

“We will also work with them to examine how to use the funds raised to support local cost-of-living responses on a fair and equitable basis across Scotland.

“Through the budget for 2022/23, the Scottish Government has allocated almost £3 billion to a range of support that will contribute to mitigating the impact of the increased cost of living on households.

“This includes work to tackle child poverty, reduce inequalities and support financial wellbeing, alongside social security payments not available anywhere else in the UK.”