‘Vast’ gulf between rich and poor Scots exposed

The least wealthy half of households in Scotland owns only 9 per cent of private wealth. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The least wealthy half of households in Scotland owns only 9 per cent of private wealth. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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THE “vast” gulf between rich and poor in Scotland has been set out in new figures which show that the richest 10 per cent own almost half the country’s wealth.

And the poorest third of people have no savings or pensions at all, according to Wealth and Assets in Scotland 2006-12.

The least wealthy 30 per cent of households owned just two per cent of all personal wealth, mainly property and personal belongings.

And while most Scots say the income gap is too high, the majority also believe it is the Scottish Government’s responsibility to tackle issues like child poverty, separate research on public attitudes to poverty shows.

Social justice secretary Alex Neil said: “The wealth and assets survey highlights the vast inequality that still exists in Scotland. It’s not right that the wealthiest 10 per cent of households have 20 times more wealth than the least wealthy 30 per cent.

“A job is no guarantee of gaining wealth or the security that comes from it.

“We need concerted action to tackle inequality, yet even the UK government’s own analysis shows that households with the lowest incomes are bearing a greater burden from public spending cuts – an astonishing admission that austerity is hitting the poorest the hardest.”

The report shows that the least wealthy half of households in Scotland owned only nine per cent of private wealth. This group were more likely to be single adults and lone parents.

Almost half of the least richer households were headed by someone who has a job.

The wealth held by Scots privately stands at about £714 billion, according to the report.

Almost half (42 per cent) of this is pensions, which accounts for £302.5bn.

The value of property – which does not include mortgage debt – accounts for about a third or £227.5bn.

Cars, household goods and jewellery along with other “physical wealth” is worth about £96.7bn, or 14 per cent, while savings and investments account for about £87.2bn or 12 per cent.

Overall, the wealthiest 10 per cent of households owned 74 per cent of financial wealth, 55 per cent of pension wealth, 43 per cent of property wealth and 33 per cent of physical wealth.

But the poorest fifth of Scots are mired in debt, which outstrips their assets, totalling about £3.5bn, the figures show.

John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action group said: “There is absolutely nothing inevitable about these extraordinary levels of wealth inequality.

“They are the result of political, social and economic decisions we as a society have taken but too often they play out as massive inequalities in the education, health and wellbeing of our children.”

The Greens said the findings show the need for a wealth tax to be introduced.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “These figures paint a sad picture of a divided society.”

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, Margaret Curran, said the issue will be at the heart of the forthcoming election campaign.

“These figures show that we simply cannot afford another five years of failed Tory austerity,” Mrs Curran said.

Wealth and Assets in brief:

2% of households owned 17% of all personal wealth in Scotland

10% of households owned 44% of all private wealth in Scotland, the same percentage as for Great Britain

In comparison, the least wealthy half of households in Scotland owned only nine per cent of private wealth

The least wealthy were more likely to be single adults and lone parents

Almost half of the least wealthy households were headed by someone in employment

Read the reports:

Wealth and Assets in Scotland 2006 – 2012 at gov.scot

Public Attitudes to Poverty, Inequality and Welfare in Scotland and Britain at gov.scot

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