Since coronavirus restrictions began more than one in 10 people across Scotland have missed an energy bill due to running out of money, new research indicates.
A YouGov survey for charity Citizens Advice Scotland found 15% of respondents who reported running out of money before payday said it meant they skipped paying for heating or light.
A total of 6% said this had happened three times or more since the coronavirus lockdown in March.
The research involved 1,862 Scottish adults and was conducted between October 19 and November 2 last year.
Now, Citizens Advice Scotland is encouraging people to get energy advice as part of its Big Energy Saving Month 2021 campaign.
The campaign focuses on five key groups including those on electric-only heating, people with prepayment meters, and those struggling with energy bills.
Householders who frequently turn off heating to save cash and people who cannot access deals and support online are also being targeted.
The campaign launches following a period of sub-zero temperatures across Scotland, as well as concerns of increasing energy costs due to the stay at home coronavirus restrictions in force.
The Scottish Government has predicted estimated fuel poverty figures could rise due to Covid-19 related unemployment, to 29% of households.
Figures it released last year indicate one in four households in Scotland (25%) were in fuel poverty.
Polly Tolley, Citizens Advice Scotland director of impact, said: “As temperatures fall and energy bills hit doormats and inboxes across Scotland this January, people might be starting to really feel the pinch of rising bills.
“This is particularly the case in 2021, after we all spent so much time at home due to restrictions during the pandemic. Further restrictions announced last week mean we’re set to stay at home further.
“Worryingly, 15% of people who have run out of money before payday since lockdown in March missed an energy payment as a result.
“The Citizens Advice network in Scotland helps thousands of people every year, and we put money back into people’s pockets.
“We’d encourage people who are facing increasingly difficult energy bills to seek advice from a local Citizens Advice Bureau, our online advice, or through our online Money Map tool at www.moneymap.scot.”
The campaign is being run in conjunction with Home Energy Scotland, which operates a network of advice centres on making homes cheaper to heat.
Harry Mayers, Home Energy Scotland head, said: “January is traditionally a challenging month for householders who may be experiencing financial difficulties.
“Research from Citizens Advice Scotland and Energy Saving Trust shows that this will be amplified as a result of the pandemic and associated restrictions.
“Through Big Energy Saving Month and our partnership with Citizens Advice Scotland, we want people to know that we are here to provide advice and support on the practical steps they can take to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and reduce the cost of bills.”