ONE in three Scottish households are now suffering from fuel poverty, new research has found.

The study of more than 11,000 people by the Big Energy Switch campaign found that 32 per cent of people either meet or exceed the basic definition of fuel poverty, 18 per cent of which are either living in extreme or severe fuel poverty.

According to BES energy, prices in Scotland have risen four times faster than household incomes since 2003, plunging an increasing number of people into difficult situations.

A household is defined as in fuel poverty if more than 10 per cent of the household income is spent on energy. If a household spends more than 20 per cent of its income on energy it is then classed as being in extreme fuel poverty.

Big Energy Switch campaign director Michael Stewart said the survey was a reminder of the “real crisis” which is taking place across the country.

He said: “This survey highlights the huge level of financial strain spiralling energy prices are placing on household budgets in Scotland. The fact that one in three households are now in fuel poverty means much more needs to be done to help families meet the ever-rising cost of energy bills.”

“Sometimes it takes cold hard statistics like these to remind us that community concern about rising energy prices is not just the usual billing gripes, this is real crisis for many hard working families that simply cannot make ends meet with energy prices this high,” Stewart said.

Callum McCaig MP, the SNP’s Energy and Climate Change spokesperson at Westminster, said that the current measures designed to tackle fuel poverty are only making the situation worse.

McCaig said: “It is ridiculous that in a country as energy-rich as Scotland so many people suffer from fuel poverty.

“The SNP believe that central government should fund the Energy Company Obligation, not hard-pressed households.

“This levy on household bills is put to good use in funding energy efficiency programmes to reduce fuel poverty. That work should continue but it makes no sense that a measure designed to tackle fuel poverty is instead driving up household energy bills and thus exacerbating fuel poverty,” he added.

Scottish Greens co-convenor and MSP Patrick Harvie said that although the results were “deeply disturbing”, they are not surprising, due to a “lack of action by successive governments”.

MSP Harvie said: “In addition to investment in community-owned renewables that offer a sustainable future in terms of energy supply and affordability, we must address the existing inefficiencies that contribute to ever-rising bills across Scotland.

“Energy-efficient homes should be a national infrastructure priority, and I was pleased that Green MSPs were able to secure agreement on this from Finance Secretary John Swinney during this year’s budget discussions.

“While increasing investment in fuel poverty measures by £20 million was a welcome step, it is still far short of what is really required. We must ramp up our efforts to eradicate this national scandal,” he said.