Nicola Sturgeon is to convene a summit between energy supply companies and consumer groups later in August to discuss what support can be offered to those struggling to pay soaring bills.
The summit will consider what collective action can be taken by government, energy companies and the third sector to help both businesses and consumers access advice, as well as support for debt issues.
Major energy suppliers including ScottishPower, OVO Energy, Centrica, Octopus and E.ON will attend alongside industry bodies and key consumer and poverty groups.
It comes as 1 million Scottish households are expected to fall into fuel poverty this winter, according to Energy Action Scotland, with typical home energy bills set to soar to over £3,500 in October, and above £4,200 in the first quarter of 2023.
The full forecast for the winter will be made clear when Ofgem publishes updated price cap information on 26 August.
Ms Sturgeon said the government would continue to do “everything [it] can” to support those affected, in what she described as “an incredibly unsettling time” for households and businesses.
“There is a not a single solution to this problem and government, industry and the third sector in Scotland needs to work collaboratively together to ensure the right support is in place for householders and businesses during this challenging winter.
“This could include improving the availability of help and advice and considering a more compassionate approach to debt management,” she added.
The First Minister said one step would be to cancel the impending price cap rise, but that the majority of power and resources necessary to tackle the crisis lay with Westminster.
She said access to borrowing, welfare, VAT on fuel, additional taxation of windfall profits, and regulation of the energy market were not devolved issues, adding that: “Only the UK Government can access and make available resources on the scale required. They need to take action, now.”
The comments follow proposals unveiled by Labour leader Kier Starmer on Monday, in which he suggested expanding the windfall tax levy on oil and companies to help fund a total freeze on energy bills over the coming winter.
‘Tide will become a flood’
Poverty Alliance director Peter Kelly said he was pleased the First Minister was organising the summit, but warned that people across the country faced “being swept up amid a rising tide of hardship.”
“With the energy price cap due to increase in October, that tide threatens to become a flood,” he said.
The organisation said it hoped the meeting would help inform “much-needed and urgent action” to protect those most at risk of poverty and deeper hardship.
Energy Action Scotland CEO Frazer Scott added: “Fuel poverty will affect over one million Scottish households this winter requiring urgent intervention focussed on targeting those most in need.”
“Cold, damp homes affect health and wellbeing and will put thousands of lives at risk as well as adding additional pressure to the NHS, making this a vital intervention for Scotland.”