by Nick Bailey and Des McNulty

Key Facts

  • Inequality in Scotland is high compared to most European countries, as it is in the rest of the UK.

  • Almost one-in-five people in Scotland (18 per cent) lives in poverty using the 'low income' measure (after housing costs). The poverty rate in Scotland is about one seventh lower than in the rest of the UK but it is no different if London and the South East of England are excluded.

  • The poverty rate for pensioners has fallen dramatically over the last 20 years (from 29 to 13 per cent). The poverty rate for children has also fallen, albeit more slowly (from 30 to 26 per cent). The rate for working age adults has risen from 18 to 20 per cent. 

  • In-work poverty has risen steadily over the last 20 years. Two thirds of working age adults and children in poverty live in households with at least one person in work (64 and 70 per cent respectively).

  • The great majority of people in Scotland (83 per cent) believe the income gap between rich and poor is too great while a large minority (43 per cent) support greater efforts by Government to redistribute income from richer to poorer. These proportions are very similar to those in the rest of the UK.

  • Scots have virtually identical views to people in the rest of the UK about where the 'poverty line' should be set.

For the full chapter, please see: Bailey, N. & McNulty, D. (2017) Inequality and Poverty in Scotland. In Gibb, K., Maclennan, D., McNulty, K., & Comerford, M. (eds) Scottish Economy - A Living Book. London: Routledge. Available via this link.


Figure 13.1: Inequality in Household Incomes - UK
- Data comes from the Institute for Fiscal Studies: Living Standards, Inequality and Poverty Spreadsheet

Figure 13.2: Gini Coefficient- Scotland and UK
- Data comes from the IFS spreadsheet and the Scottish government's Poverty and Income Inequality publication: 2014-2017

Figure 13.5: Poverty Rates by Demographic Group
- Below 60 per cent of median income, after housing costs Data is from the Scottish Government: Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland: 2015/16

Figure 13.6: Proportion of Poor in Scotland with At Least One Adult in Employment
- Data comes from the Scottish Government publication "Poverty and income inequality in Scotland: 2015/16", Table A7

Figure 13.7: Low Income Poverty for Scotland and the UK
- Data comes from the UK government's ''Households below average income (HBAI)'' report