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Don’t let SNP pass buck as figures reveal Scotland’s deep class divide

Neither the British nor Scottish governments are willing to confront the realities of class society
Issue 2793
Nicola Sturgeon behind the steering wheel of a bus

SNP first minister Nicola Sturgeon — throwing social justice under the bus? (Picture: Flickr/Ninian Reid)

New official figures have rammed home the deep class divide in Scotland. The richest 10 percent are more than 200 times wealthier than the poorest 10 percent. The reality of capitalist Scotland is poverty for many, fabulous wealth for a few.

The average wealth held by the richest in Scotland rose to £1,651,700 between 2018 and 2020, the Scottish Government data shows. It has risen by almost a third since 2006-08.

In contrast, average wealth for the poorest 10 percent was just £7,600—a difference of 217 times. And for many of the poorest their “wealth figure” is zero. The figure for the poorest section has fallen since 2014-16.

The statistics, which come from a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), found one in three people said they do not have the required savings to keep themselves above the poverty line should they lose their job. Nearly half of the households, which would struggle to see out a month financially after losing their income, include a person who is disabled.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government described the level of inequality as “unacceptable”, but said it is the fault of Britain’s “economic model”. She said, “Where we have the powers we have taken progressive action, which protects those on lower and middle incomes”. And she added that it “uses an inclusive growth model at the heart of our economic strategy”. 

Really? The Scottish National Party (SNP) has been in charge in Scotland for 15 years. It now has the power to set all rates and bands of income tax. It can take money away from the rich and shift it into the pockets of poorer people if it wants to.

But, although its policies are slightly different to the Tories, it runs a Scotland obsessed with winning over the multinationals and wealthy business people. That’s why it opposed a windfall tax on the energy giants such as Shell and BP, when it was proposed in Westminster. 

The party’s 2018 Growth Commission Report, a blueprint for a free market society, remains crucial to its plans.

That was shown recently when the Scottish government embraced the Tory plan for “freeports”. At these, capital will be able to roam free from some regulation, will enjoy lower taxes and grab subsidies from the state.

The wealth gap across Britain as a whole is worse than in Scotland. Overall the richest 1 percent of households is more than 230 times that of the poorest 10 percent. The top 1 percent of households have wealth of more than £3.6 million each and hold 43 percent of all the wealth in Britain.

Neither in British nor the Scottish parliaments, are there political forces prepared to confront the reality of class society. The Tories venerate it, and Labour and the SNP propose only the most trifling changes. 

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