The Covid-19 lockdown could worsen fuel poverty for older and vulnerable folk, an isles politician has warned.
Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston raised concerns about the increased energy bills during a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament this week.
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Halcro Johnston questioned cabinet secretary for social security and older people Shirley-Anne Somerville on how the government was monitoring increased costs and whether they would consider extra support for those who needed help.
He said: “Although we have enjoyed a rare spell of good weather recently, many elderly and vulnerable people will have incurred higher energy bills simply because they are following government advice to stay at home.
“It is important that those who are in this position – who already worried about coronavirus and are being shielded – are not also having to worry about how they are going to make ends meet.
“I am particularly concerned about people in my own region of the Highlands and Islands who, as well as living in remote areas where there may already be less support available, already face higher levels of fuel poverty.
“We also have the challenge of supporting households which are off-grid and who may require a different approach is they are to be provided with support.
“I was pleased that the minister acknowledged the problem, and highlighted the fantastic efforts of Age Scotland, but this is clearly are area where Scottish ministers have an important role to play.”
Earlier this month, a survey by comparethemarket found 72 per cent of UK households had seen their energy usage increase during lockdown – adding an average £32 on to their monthly bills.
Citizens Advice Scotland’s energy spokeswoman Kate Morrison said: “Even before the outbreak of Covid-19 hundreds of thousands of people were already struggling with energy bills, with one in four households in Scotland in fuel poverty.
“What the coronavirus crisis does in addition to increasing energy usage for those at home is create an uncertainty and insecurity of income for furloughed workers. There is a real risk these higher prices will fall heaviest on those least able to pay.”