Scottish councils with responsibility for residents living in differing geographical areas must be given more flexibility over how they target funding to help those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, a think tank has said.

Research conducted by the Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP) has found higher food and fuel prices are causing the most problems for people in remote areas, while in the cities rising rent and interest rates are taking the heaviest toll.

The economic thinktank found rural and island communities are particularly exposed to higher food prices, which are compounded by the added costs of transporting goods to their areas.

Its research also found an acute issue with fuel poverty exists in remote places in Scotland, with Na h-Eileanan Siar, Highland, and Argyll and Bute having the highest rates of fuel poverty.

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Meanwhile, in Scotland’s biggest cities, higher housing costs were found to add the most pressure to household budgets, with private rents equivalent to 39.7% of median take-home pay in Midlothian and 34.5% in Glasgow.

In East Lothian and the City of Edinburgh, private rents are equivalent to 34.0% and 31.3% of median take-home pay respectively.

The Herald:

Glasgow from the air 

High mortgage burdens are also a major concern in the cities as interest rates continue to rise, with some households in Edinburgh now having ratios four times their income.

CPP is calling for the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to allow more flexibility in how councils target funding to support residents with the cost of living.

READ MORE: More Scottish homeowners falling behind on mortgage payments

Last year, the Scottish Government is said to have spent £351 million on council tax reductions but did not allocate funding to local authorities to use at their own discretion.

CPP is also calling for better national data collection and legislation to improve data sharing by councils and other local partners during times of crisis.

It also recommends the UK Government conducts geographic analyses to measure the impact of crisis policy interventions to ensure they provide adequate support that meets the needs of different communities.

The Herald:

Ross Mudie, research analyst at CPP and the report’s author, said: “Rising living costs are adding pressure to virtually all households in Scotland, but our analysis reveals significantly different pressures in different parts of the country.

“For remote rural and island communities, already faced with steeper food costs pre-crisis, persistently high food and fuel inflation are adding yet more pressure.

“Households in Edinburgh that have recently taken out a mortgage are disproportionately likely to be feeling the squeeze from rising interest rates, with almost a third of all mortgages recently taken out in the capital being four times the size of homeowners’ incomes.

“Local authorities know their communities best and the UK and Scottish Governments alike must give them the funding and flexibility to target future support where it is most needed.

“Both Governments must also commit to evaluating the impact of crisis support in different places so that it can ensure support is reaching those who need it.”

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.