Greater proportion of Scottish households struggling with cost of living crisis

29 September 2022

A comprehensive survey of UK households has found a greater proportion of Scottish households are in ‘serious financial difficulties’ than households in England. Whilst just under 15% of English households are in serious financial difficulties, in Scotland that figure is 21% (540,000 households).

The Financial Impact Tracker, commissioned by the abrdn Financial Fairness Trust and analysed by a team at the University of Bristol, has been monitoring the personal finances of households since the start of the pandemic (sample around 6,000 people). Scottish households were twice as likely to report that it was a constant struggle to pay bills: 22% vs 15% in England.

To try and counter this a higher proportion of families in Scotland are making efforts to reduce their spending with more cutting back on things like food, energy consumption and general overall spending.

Cut back ‘a lot’ on…

UK nations*






UK Overall

No. of Scottish households

Energy bills






Food (excluding eating out/takeaways)






Overall spending







Scottish households are also less likely to have savings to fall back on. 34% reported having no savings (10 percentage points higher than English households with no savings – 24%). This equates to around 850,000 Scottish households with no savings.

The future financial outlook is not bright either. When it comes to paying household bills over the next three months, a higher proportion of Scottish households feel it will be a constant struggle (24% Scotland vs 18% UK overall, 590,000 Scottish households). Less than half felt they would be able to pay bills over the next three months ‘without any difficulty’. 33% of Scottish households put themselves in this category, for English households, the proportion able to pay bills without difficulty was closer to 40%.

Scots are also feeling a greater amount of anxiety about their finances. The proportion of households in Scotland who report feeling very worried about their finances over the next three months is higher than the UK as a whole (30% vs 23% UK). In total around 1.6 million households in Scotland report feeling quite or very worried about their finances.

The survey found the number of households in 'serious financial difficulties' is worse than any point during the pandemic. Across the UK people serious financial difficulties, have used various tactics to make ends meet. 71% have reduced the quality of food they eat, 36% have sold or pawned possessions and 27% have cancelled or not renewed insurance.

Mubin Haq, CEO of abrdn Financial Fairness Trust, said:

“On a range of measures the costs of living crisis is hitting Scottish families harder than families in England. There are significantly more who are in serious financial difficulties; finding it a constant struggle to pay their bills; and with few savings to fall back on. Despite Scotland having a lower poverty rate than England, anxiety levels are much greater. This is likely to be driven by even greater concerns about energy bills given these costs are higher in Scotland, especially in rural areas.

The main levers lie with the UK government in alleviating the pain many are facing, and in last week’s mini-budget there was little focus on how to help those on lower incomes. However, the Scottish government has an important role to play, and has made positive steps in increasing the Scottish Child Payment. It could also use the increase in the block grant from the Treasury to enhance social security payments for groups most at risk including disabled people and larger families as well as expanding the Scottish Welfare Fund. Short-term support as well as longer-term measures are needed to prevent further hardship.”

Professor Sharon Collard, Chair in Personal Finance at the University of Bristol, said:

“It is hugely concerning that so many Scottish households are going into winter worried about whether they can afford to turn their heating on. It is vital government offers more support to vulnerable groups, such as lone parents and disabled people who are least able to weather the coming financial storm.”

*Northern Ireland is excluded due to sample size taken.

Read the report