STRUGGLING tenants are disconnecting their power supplies to avoid energy bills, housing associations say.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) says its members are seeing a rise in the number of households struggling to pay for power.

And more people are cutting off supply to their properties as a result, it is claimed.

One social landlord covering Fife and Central Scotland said they see this “on an almost daily basis”. A staff member said: “It’s a simple choice between heating and eating for a lot of tenants.”

And a representative from an Argyll and Bute-based housing association told the SFHA: “A number of tenants have stopped using heating because they can’t afford it.

“Mostly it’s because they don’t want another bill to worry about, so they do without, whenever possible.”

Most housing providers told the SFHA welfare reform was to blame for exacerbating fuel poverty – defined as a household spending 10% of its net income on fuel requirements after housing, care and childcare costs – while others blamed rising energy costs.

The findings are revealed today as MSPs prepare to vote on a new law aimed at tackling the problem for low-income households.

If approved, the legislation will set a target for cutting the number of households affected by fuel poverty, which is linked to poor physical and mental health. A recent report from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) which found one in 10 workers was too short of money to be able to pay an energy bill at least once last year.

Under new definitions proposed in the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill, the fuel poverty rate in Scotland in 2017 would have been almost 24%, comprising 583,000 homes.

The proposals seek to cut this to 15% by 2030 and then to 5% in another 10 years.

SFHA chief executive Sally Thomas said: “It is shocking how many people are struggling to afford to heat their homes.

“The UK Government must take urgent action to raise social security in line with inflation to ensure no-one has to choose between heating or eating.

“Social landlords are working hard to make homes more energy efficient and reduce the cost of heating them for their tenants. However, in order to end fuel poverty, it is vital social landlords are eligible for grant assistance from the Scottish Government,” she added.

Commenting on the CAS research, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said the new bill could make a difference, adding: “Scotland is one of the few countries in the world to define fuel poverty and set a goal towards eradicating it.”