FREEZING the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) “will not protect the most vulnerable”, the SNP has warned.

The call comes as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt looks set to extend the UK Government’s £2500 EPG for a further three months instead of increasing it to £3000.

However, the SNP want to see energy bills reduced by 20% and £500 put back into the pockets of hard-working families.

Stewart Hosie, the SNP's economy spokesperson, said: "If the Chancellor thinks freezing the Energy Price Guarantee will get voters back on side, he’s more deluded than we thought.

“Extending the £2500 EPG will not protect the most vulnerable in our society; that can only be done by putting money back into people’s pockets.

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“With wholesale gas prices down by 75%, the UK government have the ability to not just freeze energy prices, but to reduce them by 20%. That would make a real difference to households right across these isles.

“It's also essential the £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme payments continue for all households that currently receive them. It’s time the Tories stop ripping families off and start putting money back in people's pockets.

"Scotland is an energy rich country, yet families continue to be fuel poor- all because of continued Westminster control."

It comes as the wholesale price of gas fell by 75% since its peak in the summer, with the forecast cost of the UK government's EPG falling from the £42 billion predicted in November to £26.8bn - leaving the Treasury with an underspend of £15 bn.

At the moment, the UK Government is limiting the typical household energy bill to £2500 a year plus a £400 winter discount.

Hunt has so far declined to extend the support but there are indications from experts he may change course when he sets the Budget on March 15.

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The £400 winter payment, however, does look likely to end next month.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has forecast that the Treasury could afford to keep support at current levels until the summer due to the fall in wholesale energy prices.