Wealth report shows Scotland trails UK despite topping £1 trillion

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Scotland’s total household wealth has exceeded the £1 trillion barrier for the first time, but is unevenly distributed and behind the rest of the UK, a new report shows.

The average household in Scotland has accumulated £237,000 – a figure that includes property, pensions, savings and possessions such as cars, jewellery and gadgets.

Cash is just one of the ways wealth is calculated. Picture: John Devlin

Cash is just one of the ways wealth is calculated. Picture: John Devlin

That compares with the £259,000 accumulated by households in the UK as a whole, the report by the Resolution Foundation think-tank said.

Households in Scotland have on average built up £65,000 in property – below average for the UK as a whole, where the figure was £95,000.

However, Scottish households had more money saved in pensions – £70,000 compared with £58,000 for the UK.

According to the report, the distribution of wealth is “very unequal” in Scotland, with 25 per cent of people having less than £500 in net savings, compared with 22 per cent across the UK. Meanwhile, 7 per cent of those in Scotland have zero savings or negative balances in their current accounts.

The report also showed the top 10 per cent of households in Scotland when it came to income hold 29 per cent of all household wealth. The wealth enjoyed by the top 10 per cent was more than that accumulated by the bottom 50 per cent of households. The 10 per cent of households with the lowest incomes have just 2 per cent of total wealth.

The report shows wealth has grown faster than wages and was increasing from five times GDP to seven times. The failure of incomes to grow has made it harder for people to close wealth gaps by earning and saving.

The Resolution Foundation said it would now take a very high-income family, in the top 10 per cent of households with a £58,000 income, 19 years of saving every single penny they earn to become a truly wealthy family. A truly wealthy family was defined as being in the top 10 per cent of wealthiest households with assets of more than £1 million.

Falling home ownership in Scotland – from 48 per cent in 2003 to 32 per cent today – was a major factor in a generational gap opening up in wealth. Those born in the second half of the 1970s had, by the age of 35, one-third less wealth than those born just five years before at the same age, holding £33,000 compared to £52,000.

The report, entitled The £1 trillion Pie: How Wealth is Shared Across Scotland described inheritances as “booming”. Inheritance tax revenue raised from Scottish estates rose by 30 per cent in just two years up to 2014-15.

It said what families inherit rather than what they earned was going to become a much more important determinant of living standards in the future.

Torsten Bell, director of the Resolution Foundation, said: “This increase in wealth across Scotland has sat alongside falling home ownership rates, particularly for young families, who are struggling to accumulate wealth as preceding generations have been able to.

“The accumulation, distribution and taxation of wealth should be at the centre of policy debates in Scotland.

“If current trends continue, it will become much harder in modern Scotland to earn your way to being truly wealthy and young people’s prospects will depend less on their ability and more on whether or not they inherit assets.”