Calls to an energy advice service rocketed across the north and north-east last year as desperate residents sought help with crippling power bills.
New figures show 115,000 people across the nation contacted the Home Energy Scotland advice service in 2021-22 – a rise of 27% on the previous year.
But the number soared by an even higher rate in parts of northern Scotland, including by 62% in Aberdeenshire and by 61% in Moray.
Above average rises of about 30% were also recorded in Aberdeen City and Orkney, while there was an increase of more than 20% in both Highland and Shetland.
The 6,824 calls last year from Aberdeehshire residents and 5,988 from Highland were topped only by the figures for Edinburgh, Glasgow and Fife.
Home Energy Scotland, funded by the Holyrood government and managed by the Energy Saving Trust, offers free and impartial advice to help people create warmer homes, reduce their energy bills, and lower their carbon footprint.
A total of 663,670 households have accessed the its advice service since 2015.
It estimates it has helped save over £1 billion on domestic energy bills since the service was established in 2008.
Northern Scotland has long suffered some of the worst rates of fuel poverty in the UK, due to colder weather, higher electricity distribution charges and a lack of access to the gas grid.
‘Severity of the issue’ highlighted
The figures were published by Green minister Patrick Harvie in response to parliamentary questions lodged by Conservative MSP Miles Briggs.
Last night, Mr Briggs said: “The rising number of households contacting the Home Energy Scotland advice service highlights the severity of the issue facing people across the country who are struggling to heat their homes.
“The UK Government’s Budget last week will provide significant help in tackling this and the wider cost-of-living crisis.
“Extending the energy price cap for three months is a welcome step to help families pay energy bills and the Scottish Government will also receive £320 million due to other funding commitments which were announced.”
In response to Mr Briggs question, Mr Harvie said: “Since 2017, householders contacting Home Energy Scotland have been asked whether their home is hard to heat or they are worried about their bills.
“Householders living in or at risk of fuel poverty may also have received advice from other publicly funded advice services.”