SCOTTISH parents are being saddled with the steepest increases in childcare costs of any region of UK.

New research has found that the cost of paying for childminding services is rising far faster than the rate of inflation and outpacing other areas of the Britain.

Only London rates are accelerating faster.

A survey by the Family and Childcare Trust’s annual Childcare Survey revealed that the cost of an after-school club shot up by 8.5 per cent during the past year, while a part-time nursery place for a child aged over two increased to £104.06 per week, a hike of 4.1 per cent since 2015.

This is despite a marginal increase in England of 2.1 per cent. Costs in Wales fell by 8.7 per cent.

Julia Margo, chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust, said that there were growing concerns about the "unaffordability" of childcare for Scottish parents and called on the Scottish Government to lower costs.

She said: “While we warmly welcome recent commitments from the Scottish Government to increase the hours of free early education, we urge it to address the rising cost of childcare and make the flexibility of childcare provision a top priority.

“It is also essential that the Scottish Government strengthens legislation on local authorities to provide enough childcare for working parents in order to tackle the serious gaps in Scotland’s childcare provision.”

The Scottish Government said free early learning and childcare for 3 and 4 year olds have been increased to 600 hours – 45 per cent more provision than in 2007 .

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative young people spokeswoman, said that it was becoming increasingly difficult for families to juggle careers while meeting the cost of childcare.

“The Scottish Government has spoken a lot about this issue, but nothing like enough is actually changing," she said. Even with its flagship policies, it hasn’t checked to see if councils are equipped to implement them.

“What we need to see is more flexibility, which would allow families more choice to choose an affordable scenario that works for them.”

Jackie Brock, chief executive of the national charity Children in Scotland, called for both the Scottish and UK governments to work together to help families who rely on childcare.

She said: "These latest figures show that, despite the pace of increase of childcare costs slowing, the expense to an average family in Scotland is still extraordinarily high.

“We know that a lack of affordable and flexible childcare is a major issue for many families here.

“The effect is that thousands of parents, particularly mothers, are essentially locked out from further employment and training opportunities that could support their development, bring greater security to their families and bolster Scotland’s economy."

She added: “Crucially, the Scottish and UK Government must collaborate in this vital policy area to make the childcare system more coherent and flexible, and lift the burden of financial stress off struggling families, something Children in Scotland will be calling for at the Scottish Government’s summit on childcare this Thursday.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman stressed that £329m had been committed over two years to expand free early learning and childcare.

And she said there are plans to almost double funded hours to 1,140 hours by the end of the next parliament.