Scotland’s digital divide revealed as 370,000 go without internet access during pandemic

Almost 370,000 people were without internet access last year in Scotland after running out of of money before pay day, showing the extent of financial insecurity across the country. 

Polling by YouGov for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) found that 32 per cent of people ran out of money before pay day in the last year.

Of those people, 26 per cent had to go without internet access as a result.

Based on Scotland’s population, estimates show that around 369,200 people will have been affected. 

A further 28 per cent went without mobile phone access, working out to 397,600.

The research defines ‘pay day’ as including payment day for pensions and benefits.


CAS has called the findings “concerning”, given the past year had seen increased reliance on the internet during the pandemic.

The charity has further stressed that there needs be more choice in accessing public services which are often digital by default, such as claiming Universal Credit. 

CAS Strong Communities spokesperson Gillian Fyfe said: “For many of us, the past year of the pandemic was when it became clear that internet and phone access are essential utilities for people.

“Whether it was through online meetings for work or zoom quizzes with friends, we relied on internet access more than ever last year.

“That’s why it’s so worrying to see such a high proportion of people who had to go without online access or use of a mobile phone in the past year because they ran out of money.

“This is even more concerning when you factor in the digital first or digital by default nature of public services and the welfare state.

“It may be the case that those who need digital access the most are those most likely to have run out of money and go without as a result.”

READ MORE: Scotland is home to some of UK’s worst digital connectivity areas

The charity has called the situation with furlough ending, Universal Credit cuts and the energy bills rising, the ‘perfect storm’ for people. 

Official figures show that the increase in the cost of living, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, hit 3.2% in the year to August. This is the biggest jump in prices since records began in 1997.

CAS is now running in response a  ‘Our Advice Adds Up’, a campaign encouraging people to get advice.

They are also encouraging people to check whether they can get cheaper tariffs with broadband providers as some providers are offering social tariffs. 

READ MORE: Scotland’s faith leaders unite in demand to stop “body blow” of poverty

Gillian added: “We’d encourage people to see if they can access a cheaper or more affordable contract. Some providers are offering social tariffs to people on low incomes and we’d like to see more providers, including mobile providers offer these contracts.

“Ultimately though, for a lot of people the issue is a lack of income in the first place.

“People can get advice from their local CAB or our online advice site, and also check which rounds up people’s online options to boost their incomes and cut their bills.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992