THE richest 10% of people in Scotland are more than 200 times wealthier than the poorest 10%, new statistics have revealed.
The widening wealth gap was confirmed by figures released by the Office of National Statistics, which showed the median wealth held by the richest rose to £1,651,700 between 2018 and 2020. This is a 32% rise since the period 2006-2008.
Conversely, the median wealth for the poorest fell to just £7600 – a staggering difference of 217 times compared to Scotland’s richest.
Although the figure for those on the lowest incomes has more than doubled from the £3500 figure in 2006-08, the number has fallen from a peak of £8100 in 2014-16.
The wealth gap between the top 10% and lowest 40% was £1,614,900, a growth of 32% between 2006-08.
The Scottish Government has said the figures are “unacceptable” and added it was the fault of the UK’s “economic model”. Opposition parties have said the statistics are down to the SNP’s failures in government.
Meanwhile, child poverty campaigners said that there needs to be a “fundamental rethink” about how to prevent poverty and support low-income households.
It comes as one in three Scots said they do not have enough savings to keep them above the poverty line should they find themselves unemployed, with half the people in the bottom 20% of earners deemed financially vulnerable. This is compared to just 8% of the highest 20% of earners.
A third of Scots don’t have enough savings to keep them afloat if they found themselves unemployed
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said that levels of wealth inequality in Scotland are similar to the rest of the UK.
She added: “This suggests that they are the result of a UK economic model which is known to exacerbate inequality, and which the Scottish Government rejects.
“The levels of inequality shown in these statistics are unacceptable, but where we have the powers we have taken progressive action which protects those on lower and middle incomes and use an inclusive growth model at the heart of our economic strategy.”
The spokeswoman added that the Scottish Government has spent more than £1.6 billion since 2007 supporting Scots to buy homes. However, the gap between the richest and poorest in terms of property wealth has also expanded. The bottom 10% of earners reported a median property wealth of £18,000, compared to £500,000 for those in the top 10% of earners.
The figure for the poorest declined from £23,200 in 2006-08, while their wealthy counterparts saw median property wealth rise from £469,600.
Scottish Greens finance spokesperson Ross Greer said: “Extreme inequality kills people. It is the result of a capitalist system which plunges millions into poverty and wrecks the planet, all so a tiny few can become wildly, unimaginably wealthy.
“We desperately need a wealth tax and other mechanisms which force the super-rich to pay their fair share, but unfortunately these powers are still held at Westminster, where that same elite are very much in control.
“The only way to truly transform our economy, eradicate poverty and tackle the power of economic elites is as an independent nation.”
Ross Greer called for a wealth tax on the highest earners in Scotland
The figures are stark for families and single parents when median household wealth is analysed. Compared to a work-age couple with a wealth of £300,800, a couple with children has around £50,000 less on average. Meanwhile, a lone parent on average only has household wealth of £36,500, £200 less than 2016-18, and falling gradually from a peak of £42,500 in 2008-10.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said that the figures show “there is no shortage of wealth in Scotland”.
He added that the wealth of the richest growing at the same time as child poverty was rising “tells us something is very clearly wrong with the way our economy, tax and benefit systems are working”.
He continued: “We need to harness the wealth we create as a country more fairly to ensure no family is left one paycheck from poverty, and no child grows up in hardship.”
Dickie welcomed the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment, but added that for the Scottish Government to reach their child poverty targets for 2030, a “rethink” on tax, social security, housing and infrastructure is needed.
He said: “We need to remove the barriers that prevent so many families from building the assets they need for their own security. With these kinds of resources at our disposal, there can be no excuse for leaving a single child behind.”
LibDem economy spokesperson Willie Rennie said: “The SNP Government talk a good game on poverty but after 15 years in charge of government with a massive multi-billion budget and controls over taxes on wealth and income, they have failed to deliver.”
The gap between the richest and poorest in Scotland is widening
Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: “These shocking statistics lay bare the extent of wealth inequality in Scotland today.
“It is clear that years of Tory and SNP governments have only led to greater inequality and the gap between the rich and poor remaining wide. Faced with such inequality, the SNP have continually failed to be bold or ambitious enough for Scotland.”
A UK government spokesperson said: “We are taking decisive action to reverse inequality and radically transform the United Kingdom by spreading opportunity and create well-paid jobs in left behind communities in Scotland.
“The UK government is providing £41 billion a year for the next three years to the Scottish Government – the highest settlement since devolution.
“We will also continue to work closely with the Scottish government and their powers on housing, education and welfare to tackle regional disparities.”
The figures also showed median pension wealth was even more unequal than wealth in general, with the bottom 10% boasting just £1700, and the top 10% reporting £617,300 in pensions – 363 times more than the poorest Scots.