Nearly 400,000 Scots missed an energy payment in the past year after running out of cash before payday, a poll has indicated, with a price hike due at the end of the week.
Nearly one-third (32%) of people said they had spent all their money before payday in the past 12 months, of whom 28% said they could not meet a gas or electricity bill at least once as a result.
The findings have prompted warnings from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), which commissioned the survey, that the coming week could be a “tipping point for thousands more”.
At the end of this week, the energy price cap – which limits the amount suppliers can charge for their default tariffs – is to increase by £139 from £1,138 to £1,277.
Meanwhile, with some energy firms going out of business, there are fears that people could have to pay more when they are transferred over to a different power supplier.
CAS also warned of budget pressures due to next month’s proposed £1,040 per year Universal Credit cut and furlough winding down at the end of September.
CAS fair markets spokeswoman, Kate Morrison, said: “The crisis in the market is almost certainly going to mean higher bills for people well into next year, but people were already struggling massively during the pandemic.
“With furlough winding down and Universal Credit being cut by £20 per week, it’s extremely worrying that so many people are missing energy payments as a result of running out of money.
“The coming week could be a tipping point for thousands more.”
CAS also warned that people with a supplier which has gone bust could end up on a higher tariff or miss out on the “lifeline” Warm Homes Discount.
The UK Government scheme opens next month and offers a one-off £140 discount off electricity bills between October and March.
Meanwhile, a think tank report has already warned that a “triple-whammy” of incoming budget pressures over the next six months could leave low income families more than £1,000 worse off annually.
The Resolution Foundation said inflation, rising energy bills, the looming health and social care tax and next month’s proposed Universal Credit cut could leave households worse off even after accounting for increases in the minimum wage.
Elsewhere, Scottish ministers are being challenged to use welfare powers to boost the winter fuel payment by £70, helping pensioners cope with rising energy costs.
Labour’s Anas Sarwar will use his speech to the party’s Brighton conference to warn of the dangers of rising fuel poverty as “energy prices spiral out of control”.
CAS pointed people to its “Our Advice Adds Up”, which seeks to help people maximise their incomes.
The poll was carried out by YouGov between May 20 and 25 online with 1,032 representative participants.
CAS said that using the latest population statistics 32% of Scottish adults works out at 1.42 million people; 28% of that number is 397,600.