Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil on tackling inequality in Scotland
One in ten Scots lives in severe poverty, that’s a household managing with an income of less than £11,500, half the UK average.
The top two per cent of households own nearly a fifth of all private wealth in Scotland yet the least wealthy half of all households own just nine per cent, while almost half of our least wealthy households are headed by someone in employment.
Lowest income households bear a greater burden from public spending cuts than the average household – the poorest being hit hard again and again, locking generations into a perpetual cycle of poverty.
One in ten Scots lives in severe poverty
It’s got to change. Four out of five people agree the gap between the richest and poorest is too large and want something done about it, while international evidence shows that countries with more equal societies typically enjoy stronger and more sustainable growth over the long run.
That’s why we have put tackling inequalities at the heart of the Scottish Government’s programme.
Where the Scottish Government has powers, it is making a difference. We have boosted childcare, frozen the council tax for eight years and we not only pay the living wage, we encourage every employer to follow suit. We want to raise educational attainment and see more university entrants come from the most disadvantaged communities.
We are also spending over £100 million a year to mitigate welfare reforms, helping people affected by the bedroom tax and cuts to the council tax reduction scheme. That’s why we called for the full devolution of social security to create a more aligned system that joins up welfare and employment.
With 11 social security benefits in areas such as sickness and disability now set to be devolved, accounting for around £2.5 billion expenditure, we have an opportunity to do things differently and it’s critical we seize the opportunity to improve lives where we can.
So in the coming months, I’ll be out and about talking about the details and listening to people on benefits, to community organisations and to national groups with an interest.
Alongside this, I plan to set out proposals for an ambitious and far-reaching Social Justice Action Plan by the end of this year, with clear aspirations for what a more socially just Scotland will look like in 2030 and tangible deliverables for 2020.
This will be backed by a wide-ranging programme of engagement to hear ideas on how we can match people’s ambitions for a socially just Scotland with our existing powers and new welfare, tax and employability powers.
My vision is to build a fairer Scotland where everyone feels valued and we properly support our most vulnerable people. With broad participation from the public and across the political spectrum, I am convinced that, together, we’ll be able to make a difference.