Key Points

  • The distribution of wealth in Scotland mirrors that in the rest of the UK, and has moved towards greater inequality since the economic crisis of 2008. Indeed, the winners have been those with financial wealth in particular, and the losers are those with nothing at all.
  • Income inequality, which is less unequally distributed than wealth, has also seen increased concentrations of resources at the top, and relative impoverishment at the bottom, reflecting changes in taxation and welfare policies, as well as labour market policies. The reasons are long-term and structural.
  • The number of people in poverty – about one million, or 20 per cent of Scotland’s population – has grown in the second decade of the 21st century. While there has been a lessening of geographical concentration of ‘deprivation’, by and large, these are changes at the margin, and the continuities are much greater than the differences.
  • These structural changes which produce greater inequalities of wealth and income run against public opinion in Scotland, indeed as they do in much of the rest of the UK.
  • We can locate these changes in a global framework, which have generated greater economic inequalities, which, even the supporters of market capitalism view as threatening economic growth and social order.