SCOTLAND'S First Minister is “extremely concerned” about the rise in energy prices and the impact on consumers as Universal Credit is cut by £20 a week.

Nicola Sturgeon said she has concerns about the “significant impact” gas price hikes may have on domestic consumers, particularly when some of the poorest families in the country will see their benefits cut.

She will be chairing a meeting of the Scottish Government committee later today to discuss the issues.

The energy price cap is set to rise by £139 a year (12%) to £1277 for a typical gas and electricity customer from October 1, while the UK Government’s “uplift” in Universal Credit, intended as a temporary measure during the coronavirus pandemic, ends on October 6. Some estimations say up to 800,000 people could be pushed into poverty.

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The gas price rises come after the cost of gas on wholesale markets rocketed at unprecedented rates, up 70% since August and 250% since the beginning of the year, according to trade body Oil & Gas UK.

Speaking to reporters earlier today, Sturgeon said: “I am extremely concerned about the rise in energy prices, the impacts on industry of the wholesale gas price rises but also the significant impact we may see on domestic consumers over this winter period at the same time as the UK Government is planning to take £20 a week away from some of the poorest families in the country.

“I will be returning to Edinburgh later today to chair a meeting of the Scottish Government’s resilience committee to look at these issues – most of them are reserved to the UK Government but I want to ensure the Scottish Government is doing everything we can to try to deal with the impact of what is a very worrying set of circumstances.”

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Asked whether she regrets that the Scottish Government has not set up a state-owned energy company, she said: “The issues around that are complex. We set out our intentions in the manifesto that we won the election on, the issue with energy prices is nothing to do with the Scottish Government’s plans for a publicly-owned energy company.”

The UK Government and regulator Ofgem have agreed the price cap will remain in place despite concerns within the energy industry about the impact it will have on firms left unable to pass on costs to customers.