A new hard-hitting report by a national debt charity has revealed that Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch has the highest level of mortgage arrears in Scotland – prompting concern from constituency MSP Kate Forbes.
According to Step Change, 29 per cent of their clients in this particular area are affected by mortgage debt, with the average being a colossal £16,155. The average debt for the Highlands and Islands as a region was £4,612 and for Scotland was £2,832. Step Change helped over 30,000 people in Scotland last year.
The same report also showed that the Highlands and Islands has the highest electricity bill arrears out of the eight Scottish regions with £1,143, and the second highest for gas debt at £685.
Kate Forbes MSP said: “These figures are extremely worrying, driven by higher utility costs and more economic fragility. Behind every figure is a family struggling to make ends meet and feeling the weight of debt on their shoulders.
“A lot of poverty in the Highlands goes unseen and unchecked, so reports like this are important for bringing facts into the light. Charities, like Christians Against Poverty and Step Change can help families deal with debt and I would strongly encourage anybody with the burden of debt to get in touch with them.
“There are obviously particular pressures in my constituency, which means that the average mortgage debt is significantly higher than the Highland average. The gap between average income and average house prices is wider than in many other parts of Scotland.
“There will be additional reasons for these figures, not least the much lower number of properties to let or to rent, leaving people with little choice but to buy.
“I think the solutions to this are many and varied. Whilst the Government has a programme of work that means over 75,000 new homes have been built across Scotland since the SNP came to power, there remains a challenge with second homes in the Highlands absorbing additional housing and driving up prices.
“We also need to make sure it is ‘mixed tenure’ and there are different types of affordability – properties to rent, shared equity schemes and self-build funds. These figures are, of course, indicative of a lack of construction over ten years ago and I would hope that with a renewed focus on accessible, affordable housing and increased supply, we start to see a reduction in these unacceptable high levels of debt.”