WARNINGS are being ramped up over the impact of the cost of living crisis, with charities and businesses revealing new figures showing how Scots are struggling to cope.

Energy company Ovo said one in five customers are now failing to pay in full when they receive a bill – compared to less than one in ten last year.

The firm said it has also seen a “marked increase” in the number of customers who rely on using prepayment meters – who are usually the most vulnerable – seeking help.

It says it has increased the number of discretionary payments to assist people in this situation by 85%, with the value of payments also going up around 60%.

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The figures have been revealed in evidence submitted to Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, which is holding an inquiry into energy prices.

In the submission, Ovo called for more government support for customers stating when the current price cap comes to an end in October, bills for a typical household could rise from £1971 to almost £3000 per year.

“We have particular concern about prepayment customers whose bills tend to be on average higher compared with customers who pay by other methods and they do not get the bill smoothing effect that monthly direct debit customers enjoy,” it stated.

“Scotland will be particularly affected as it already has higher levels of fuel poverty compared with other parts of the UK.

“In addition, bills in Scotland tend to be higher than other parts of the country as consumption is higher due to the darker and colder winters, coupled with the fact that large parts of the country are off the gas network and so rely on electricity for heat which can be more expensive.”

The warning comes after Keith Anderson, the chief executive of ScottishPower, last week also called for immediate action to help the poorest households with energy bills.

New data from Citizens Advice Scotland has also revealed how demand for housing advice is growing as the cost of living crisis intensifies.

People seeking help online over concerns around landlords increasing rent have increased, with page views now eight times higher than at the start of the pandemic.

Demand for advice around energy is also now higher than before the pandemic, representing over five per cent of all advice now compared to just over three per cent before the pandemic.

Aoife Deery, social justice spokesperson for Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “This data for March 2022 shows that even before the impact of the energy price cap increase in April demand was growing for advice around the cost of living.

“A growing concern has to be housing – we’ve seen huge increases in demand for page views landlords increasing rent in March alone.

“Across the CAB network itself, demand for housing related advice is now higher than it was before the pandemic.

“It’s clear that people are struggling and we need to see action from policy makers to ease the squeeze the cost of living crisis is putting on people.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has accused Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak of being “dangerously detached from reality” over the cost of living crisis.

The SNP MP criticised the Tory government for failing to outline any urgent measures in last week’s Queen speech.

He said: “The UK government had an opportunity to use its Queen’s Speech to set out urgent measures to help households through the devastating Tory cost-of-living crisis – instead it has turned its back on them.

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“Despite the growing concerns – including a fresh warning that around 1.5 million households across the UK will struggle to pay for their food and energy bills – Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak remain dangerously detached from reality over their refusal to act.

“The grim fact is that many people are too scared to open their bills, worrying about how they will make ends meet and being forced into the impossible choice of either eating or heating.

Blackford called for the UK Government to bring in measures such as a windfall tax on companies benefitting from excessive profits and reversing cuts to Universal Credit.

He said: “The SNP has been clear that people cannot sit tight and wait till the Autumn Budget for what the Treasury may or may not announce.”