We know, from the work of Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson in their research for the 2009 book ‘The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better’ of the strong correlations, in ‘rich’ societies, between levels of equality/inequality and several indicators of good health in those societies. In brief, they show that unequal societies have lower educational outcomes, higher drug use and homicide rates, lower trust and higher rates of mental health problems. We also know that fairer societies are often more productive too:
‘OECD research has found that high levels of inequality may impact growth negatively by causing a lack of investment in human capital among low income families. This could also affect productivity growth in our economies.’
Inspired by the above, the Scottish government launched its Fairer Scotland Action Plan one year ago with the following instruction to public authorities:
‘The socio-economic duty [Fairer Scotland Duty] asks particular public authorities to do more to tackle the inequalities caused by socio-economic disadvantage. In particular, the duty aims to make sure that strategic decisions about the most important issues are carefully thought through, so they are as effective as they can be in tackling socio-economic disadvantage and reducing inequalities.’
The duty comes into force in April 2018. A similar socio-economic duty was part of the UK Government’s Equality Act 2010 but has since been abandoned.
Ahead of that formal beginning, the Scottish government itself has already completed these actions:
- The ambitious Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill unanimously passed by Parliament
- Establishing a National Poverty and Inequality Commission
- Establishing a £29 million fund dedicated to tackling poverty
- Delivering the first baby boxes of basic essentials
- Funding two new organisations in Dundee and North Ayrshire to help people with direct experience of poverty speak out to improve public services
Praise for the Scottish government’s efforts comes from respected Joseph Rowntree Trust in Scotland:
‘By prioritising poverty reduction in the Fairer Scotland Action Plan, the Scottish Government has shown that it is committed to addressing the needs of those struggling to make ends meet. There is much more to be done but a promising start has been made.’
Readers won’t be surprised that this reminds me of a recurring them in my blog – Is Scotland a different enough place, with different emphasis on certain values, to justify independence? Well, of course it is. See these earlier pieces on the same theme:
8% of the UK population and 28% of living wage employers. More evidence that we are different enough to want to run the whole show?
Scientific evidence that Scots tend to be different from the other groups in rUK?
Racial hate crimes increase by 33% in England & Wales while falling by 10% in Scotland: Who says we’re not different?
I see two separate countries with many shared experiences but even more differences and the lurch to the more extreme right in England has emphasized it.Many neighbouring countries are probably in the same position.
Scotland could wear the mantle of a social democracy quite comfortably or even in the future a republic but I can’t imagine England taking that path.
When I look to the UK government I see them as cutting the branch they are sitting on whereas in Holyrude I see them as building bridges to the future.
Different countries now.
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And drifting apart
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