More than 600,000 Scots have no cash after paying bills
One in seven Scottish adults have £20 or less to live on after paying for essentials each month, a survey has found.
Debt Charity Stepchange said its YouGov poll highlighted the “dire” state of households finances on both sides of the border.
The survey reached 190 Scottish adults and its findings coincide with Debt Awareness Week.
Across the whole population, it suggests more than 600,000 adults in Scotland – 14% of the total – have £20 or less left over each month after paying for essentials. A further 7% have nothing at all, StepChange said.
This chimes with StepChange Scotland data showing more than one-quarter (27%) of clients are in a negative budget, meaning that after a debt advice session and counselling their expenses exceed their income.
The poll also revealed the impact of nine consecutive interest rate rises on mortgage holders and renters, nearly two-thirds (60%) of whom expect housing payments to rise within a year.
StepChange is calling for the Scottish and UK governments to take action to stop households falling into problem debt and remaining trapped in a long-term debt spiral.
Ideas include welfare payments keeping up with inflation, a fairer approach to enforcement, especially for energy debt, and the write off of arrears when someone cannot afford to pay.
Sharon Bell, head of StepChange Debt Charity Scotland, said: “We welcomed the UK government taking action in last week’s Budget to extend the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) for a further three months.
“But with the Energy Bill Support Scheme (EBSS) coming to an end, households are still very worried about how they’re going to cope come April.
“It’s not just energy bills that are decimating household budgets, with most renters and mortgage holders now facing a rise in housing payments over the next 12 months.
“More than a year on from the start of the cost-of-living crisis, financial resilience is clearly very low. Too many people are left with little to nothing each month after covering their basic living costs.”
She added: “The Scottish and UK governments must commit to longer term solutions which will protect financially vulnerable households from worsening debt and destitution due to circumstances outside of their control.
“It’s vital that people know free and impartial debt advice exists, and aren’t put off by any misunderstandings around what happens when you seek help with problem debt.”
While the EPG has been extended, the EBSS, which has seen households receive a £400 discount on their bills is coming to an end on March 31.
StepChange’s survey found nearly two in five (38%) Scottish adults expect to have to borrow to cope. Nearly one-fifth (18%) think they’ll be driven into problem debt.
In order to pay for the continually increasing cost of essentials, more than one-quarter (27%) of survey respondents will be using savings or other assets.