A multimillion pound support fund has been set up to help Scots facing soaring energy bills this winter.
The £3 million Scottish Government scheme, which is to be run by Advice Direct Scotland, will offer payments starting at £100, rising to £500 to clear outstanding debt, and will be paid direct to suppliers.
Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of the advice service, said: “With recent energy prices rises and more on the horizon, we know that many Scots are facing financial difficulties at the moment.
“Last year, we discovered that families were rationing energy such as only heating one room, and this fund is designed to ensure that people do not have to make that choice.”
The Home Heating Support Fund is open until March 31 and applications can be made online, the Scottish Government said.
Targeted funding from the fund will reflect each person’s circumstances, it said, and there would be extra support available for households where at least one person is over 75, they rely on electric heating, or live in a remote or island community.
Last year, a poll found that nearly a third of Scots had rationed their energy use so they could afford to spend money on other goods and services.
Prices are expected to rise steeply in the spring, and there have been growing concerns about the impact on households and an oncoming cost-of-living crisis.
Eligibility for support from the Home Heating Support Fund is based on households which are self-rationing their energy, which the Scottish Government said meant those who were deliberately limiting their energy use so they had enough money left at the end of the month.
“As the country recovers from the Covid pandemic and its economic impact, this fund will prove absolutely crucial in ensuring that households who have been hit the hardest can continue to heat their homes and feed their families,” Mr Bartlett said.
“Our unique experience and infrastructure at Advice Direct Scotland guarantees our capability to ensure that financial support reaches consumers facing financial hardship, while our nationwide network allows us to deliver this vital service and ensure that all households in Scotland suffering from fuel poverty can receive the help they need.”
Households who are off-supply are not eligible for the fund, and the Scottish Government said those should ask for help from their energy supplier or organisations which can refer them to the Fuel Bank Foundation.