Income, Regional and Social Inequality
SCVO considers that any future Scottish Government economic strategies should focus on using the economy, and the wealth it creates, to tackle Scotland’s endemic social, health and income inequalities.
Scotland suffers from economic inequalities between its regions and cities, for example, between Aberdeen and Glasgow. We know that economic inequality leads not only to poor economic outcomes but also has a considerable impact on our society. For example, employment impacts on a wide range of wellbeing indicators, including educational attainment, health and crime. Therefore, the regional disparity in employment rates, linked to the health of the local economy, impacts not only on an individual’s income but on their wider wellbeing. Therefore, we need strategies that strengthen all of our local, regional and national economies.
The motion makes reference to income equality and SCVO believes that sufficiency and security of income is vitally important. There are a number of approaches which could be taken to help address income inequality such as introducing a higher minimum wage or encouraging take-up of the Living Wage, practical measures which have also been discussed by the likes of the STUC. There’s also scope to look at the introduction of more secure contracts, improved working practices and better representation for employees within the workplace. There are also more unusual ideas which have been examined by a number of organisations including Oxfam and ourselves, such as the introduction of Citizen’s Income or a shorter working week.
In addition, as noted in the Health and Sport Committee’s report on Health Inequalities published earlier this week, although economic growth can lead to increased levels of employment, which may help to reduce health inequalities, this is not guaranteed.
‘Economic growth alone, therefore, will not be sufficient to address structural health inequalities.’[ii]
Furthermore, in seeking to achieve social equality we need to appreciate and value the different contributions people make to our society and economy whether or not they are paid for those contributions. For example, those who care for family or friends sustain our society, aid our economy and support our communities. Recognising the role that they play in building a strong economy and a strong community, and ensuring that they are supported in that role, is SCVO considers a guiding principle for a socially just economy.
As the Scottish Government’s Expert Group on Welfare says, it is important to both “promote work as a realistic goal for anyone who can and provide effective support for those who are prevented from working”.[iii] Given the new powers that will likely come to the Scottish Parliament following the Smith Commission’s work, Parliament must recognise the challenges disabled people face in participating in the economy and use opportunities that arise from any devolution of disability benefits and the Work Programmes to rethink how we both help people into the economy and support those who are unable to work.
The poorer economic and social position of key groups in society be an integral part of economic policy, not an “add on”. Whilst we welcome the gender budget analysis carried out by the Scottish Government, the work of the Women’s Budget group[iv] highlights the specific challenges and inequalities faced by women, particularly given the stark impact of welfare reform and austerity on their position within the economy and within society. If the First Minister’s ambition of “breaking the glass ceiling” is to be achieved, we must ensure that the specific situation of key groups such as people with disabilities, unpaid carers and lone parents is recognised and policy converges across different portfolios more effectively to ensure they are enabled to contribute to economy and society on an equal basis.
In conclusion, SCVO advocates for a socially just economy which puts people at the heart of their economy and society. We are heartened by the Scottish Government’s recent and on-going rhetoric about tackling inequality and appreciating that doing so is part of growing a strong economy. However, SCVO is keen to hear more about practical measures that could help achieve the income, regional, and social equality to which the motion refers. We hope, therefore, that this debate will highlight some of the ways in which the Scottish Government will look to achieve its aims.
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations,
Mansfield Traquair Centre,
15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB
Tel: 0131 474 6157
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is the national body representing the third sector.There are over 45,000 voluntary organisations in Scotland involving around 138,000 paid staff and approximately 1.3 million volunteers. The sector manages an income of £4.9 billion.
SCVO works in partnership with the third sector in Scotland to advance our shared values and interests. We have over 1,600 members who range from individuals and grassroots groups, to Scotland-wide organisations and intermediary bodies.
As the only inclusive representative umbrella organisation for the sector SCVO:
- has the largest Scotland-wide membership from the sector – our 1,600 members include charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations of all shapes and sizes
- our governance and membership structures are democratic and accountable – with an elected board and policy committee from the sector, we are managed by the sector, for the sector
- brings together organisations and networks connecting across the whole of Scotland
SCVO works to support people to take voluntary action to help themselves and others, and to bring about social change.
Further details about SCVO can be found at www.scvo.org.uk.
[i] SCVO’s Economy for All paper is available to view online at: http://www.scvo.org.uk/long-form-posts/an-economy-for-all-report-economyforall/