THOUSANDS of Scots could be left worse off as a result of the Scottish Government's "disastrous" new winter heating benefit, Labour has claimed.

Under the new devolved Winter Heating Payment scheme, eligible households are automatically given a one off £50 award rather than a payment based on temperatures.

However, the previous Cold Weather Payment, operated by the UK Government's Department for Work and Pensions, awarded payments of £25 each time the average temperature in a recipient's area recorded as, or was forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below over seven consecutive days.

Hence, awards were made multiple times to the same households between 1 November and 31 March.

Scottish Labour has claimed the new system north of the Border does not provide the same level of targeted support for those affected and comes amid soaring energy bills and a cost of living crisis.

The party's warning comes after research by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) indicated more than 65,000 households would have been worse off if the new Winter Heating Payment system had been in place in 2020-21.

This includes an estimated 17,000 households receiving more than £100 less, and around 51,000 households getting more than £75 less.

Spice however said its figures "give an indication of scale rather than providing reliable specific figures".

The Scottish Government meanwhile insisted its new Winter Heating Payment would provide a "reliable £50 payment each year" to around 400,000 low-income households.

But Scottish Labour's social security spokesperson Pam Duncan-Glancy said: "This disastrous new scheme risks leaving thousands of Scots out of pocket this winter."

With payments for this year expected to be made from February 2023, the Labour MSP insisted it was "unthinkable to plough ahead with these dangerous changes as bills soar, temperatures drop and people are facing the impossible choice between heating and eating".

Ms Duncan-Glancy said: "The SNP need to set out an emergency plan to stop people missing out on lifeline payments as the cold weather bites this winter."

A Scottish Government spokesman insisted however that the new scheme would see more people get payments.

He said: "Our new Winter Heating Payment will provide a reliable £50 payment each year to around 400,000 people on low incomes to help with their heating expenses every winter.

"This means we will invest around £20 million every year, compared with an average of £8.3 million per year over the last seven years (2015/16-2021/22) from the UK Government, which on average supported just 185,000 people a year with Cold Weather Payments over the same period.

"By making the changes we have we are guaranteeing everyone eligible will receive a payment every year, rather than the UK Government approach of requiring the weather being sufficiently cold for a sustained period of time."

Earlier this year Ofgem announced from 1 October, most people will pay about £1,570 more per year for gas and electricity. This increase is because the energy price cap, set by energy regulator Ofgem , is set to jump by 80 per cent to reflect rising wholesale energy costs for energy suppliers.

The UK Government has attempted to offset the rising costs to household through the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) . This scheme ensures families with average energy usage do not see their bills go up past £2,500. It was originally supposed to last for two years from October 1, 2022 but is now being altered. From April 2023, the energy price guarantee is being raised to £3,000 and will now last only 12 months from that date with households likely to pay more as a result.