“Divided Scotland exposed in breakdown of Scots wealth,” ran your heading for a review of the Scottish Government’s pre- election publication of new data (24 March).
I hope an informed debate follows but it will not be on the basis of this politicised interpretation. Many measures which alleviate inequality are deliberately left out.
Only the capital value of private sector pensions is included, leaving out the equalising impact for many thousands of massive state sector final-salary schemes.
The general state pension is not evaluated in the study. Council and social housing, which under fair value accounting implies capitalised subsidies of £50,000 to £70,000 typically (since the tenant’s rent is at a third of market value), are ignored.
By contrast, the Institute for Fiscal Studies observed that Scotland is relatively egalitarian compared with rUK and the distribution of cars, electronic goods, satellite TV’s and the like is visual evidence that living standards for most are quite similar.
If we do not have an unbiased analysis of this topic then envy-driven measures will be passed which do not focus on the truly problematic social issues of Scotland, preferring to practice what one former Labour Chancellor called “legalised theft”.
It is clearly disappointing to note the Scottish Government report which highlights the shocking scale of inequality in our nation, with the top 2 per cent of households owning nearly one fifth of all private wealth, while the least wealthy half of all households own just nine per cent.
Inequality is not just inherently wrong but has a negative impact on long-term economic growth and prosperity. The International Monetary Fund, for example, has found that lower income inequality correlates with faster and more durable growth.
However, as part of the UK, Scotland has been tied to an economic model that has exacerbated inequalities. Of the 34 OECD countries, the UK ranked 29th in terms of income inequality – in other words, the sixth worst.
Inequality may also restrict government investment in the infrastructure, education and technology that is required by a modern economy.
Ensuring that the benefits of economic growth are shared more equally across society is just as important as boosting overall growth. It is therefore not only morally just but also economic common sense to tackle inequality.