Scotland is on the brink of a “cost of living crisis” with many families worried about being able to pay for food and bills, as pressure mounts on the UK Government to introduce a ‘universal basic income’ to help struggling households.
The ScotPulse poll, carried out on behalf of Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), of over 1,000 adults across Scotland found significant concerns about people’s ability to meet everday living costs.
The poll found that one in three Scots (34%) are worried about being able to afford food and other basic essentials.
39% of those with debt repayments are concerned about paying those repayments, and four in ten (41%) of renters are also concerned about being able to meet rent payments.
The poll also found that around a third (35%) of those who pay utility bills are concerned about paying for those bills.
Commenting on the figures, CAS Chief Executive Derek Mitchell said: “These figures provide a stark illustration of what has been clear for some time – coronavirus is not just a public health crisis but represents a cost of living one for households as well.
“Our network helps hundreds of thousands every year and we have seen for some time the problem of people just about managing in our economy – people who are especially vulnerable to disruptions to their income or significant increases in bills.
“What is welcome is that both the UK and Scottish Government recognised these risks early in the process, announcing a vital package of measures to help people, from boosting Universal Credit to increasing the Scottish Welfare Fund.
“Beyond that, there are options for people to apply for mortgage holidays and changes to housing law in Scotland as a result of emergency legislation means longer notice for evictions as a result of rent arrears.
“What is essential now is that people apply for the support they are entitled to so they can best navigate this crisis.
“We saw last week a huge increase in people applying for Universal Credit – that should not put off people who qualify.
“There’s an onus too on employers to ensure that they apply for the worker retention scheme so people can be kept on payroll where possible.”
Meanwhile, the SNP is ramping up pressure on the UK Government to introduce an emergency ‘universal basic income’, or a ‘guaranteed minimum income’, to help alleviate many of the financial struggles faced by families across the UK.
A Welfare Weekly twitter poll carried out on Wednesday showed overwhelming support for the policy.
Patricia Gibson MP, the SNP’s Consumer Affairs spokesperson, said: “The coronavirus crisis has pushed many families and individuals across the UK, through no fault of their own, into hardship and financial difficulty.
“With a significant number of people in Scotland worried about how they will pay for food, essential items, bills, and payments on their homes, it is vital that the UK government sets out measures to support people in their time of need.
“Household costs are rising at the same time as millions of people are seeing a reduction or complete loss of their income. The financial strain facing many people is becoming unbearable.
“The UK government must urgently take steps to alleviate the burden, including through introducing a guaranteed minimum income, an Emergency Coronavirus Energy Grant, a six-month reprieve on utilities being cut off, and a freeze on prices.
“These are difficult times and no family or household should be left behind or struggling to heat their home, pay their bills, or put food on their table.”