ALLY McCOIST admits he has got sympathy for Hearts' plight as they fight for their survival.

But the Rangers boss insists consistency has to be shown when Scottish football's governing bodies dish out punishments for clubs entering financial difficulty.

Hearts were hit with a 15-point penalty and transfer embargo after going into administration last year, but have asked the SFA to allow them to sign players after they fell 20 points adrift at the foot of the SPFL Premiership standings.

McCoist said: "I've obviously got massive amounts of sympathy with them.

"I've seen Hearts a couple of times recently against St Mirren, where they could have won or lost it and Hibs, where they unlucky.

"I think their boys are doing really, really well actually, to be honest with you.

"I do naturally have a great degree of sympathy for Gary (Locke), Billy (Brown) and the Hearts players and staff, I really do.

"Whether or not they are getting it right with the punishments is up for debate.

"But I think they have to show consistency with their decisions and I think they will probably do that.

"That's not me saying they shouldn't look after Hearts, I just think they have to show a level of consistency and I think probably, more importantly, you would find the St Mirren, Ross County, Kilmarnock supporters would think the exact same.

"Off the top of my head, absolutely, without doubt [an embargo hurts more than a points deduction].

"We might be in a different situation from Hearts. In fact, we are in a different situation from Hearts.

"Gary might answer that question differently from where they are.

"But if someone had offered us a 15-point deduction from last year, with hindsight we could have got away with it because we won the league by 24 points.

"So, from our point of view, I would say it definitely hurts more than a points deduction, but then it might be a different answer from a different club in a different situation."