Key facts about poverty in Scotland

Scotland is a rich nation. Even without revenues from offshore oil and gas, our economy is bigger than wealthy countries like Italy, New Zealand, Japan, or South Korea.

But around one-fifth of Scotland’s people – more than a million of us – live in poverty, and that figure has hardly changed in the last 20 years.

Around 10% of people were in persistent poverty in 2020 – the same figure as in 2010.

Around 24% of children in Scotland are in poverty. Nearly seven in 10 of them live in working households and 38% of children in lone parent families are in poverty. Scotland has legal targets to eradicate child poverty, but research has found that without significant policy change – the number of children in poverty will increase in recent years.

A review we carried on behalf of The Robertson Trust found evidence that the poverty-attainment gap in education – already identified by the Scottish Government as a key priority – shows signs of increasing, and risks being further compounded by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The review revealed that:

  • Infants living in deprived areas, aged 27-30 months, are 16% more likely to display development concerns
  • Just over 2 in 5 young people living in the most deprived areas achieve one or more Higher when leaving school (43.5%) compared to almost 4 in 5 young people living in the least deprived areas (79.3%)
  • Inequalities continue into post-16 education and work pathways with one in ten school leavers living in the most deprived areas in Scotland unemployed nine months after the end of the school year, compared to 2.6% of young people in the least deprived areas.
Poverty has a huge impact on people’s life chances. Mortality rates are about twice as high in the most deprived areas of Scotland compared with the least deprived. But for some specific causes of death, we see much larger inequalities. For example, people in the most deprived areas of Scotland are more than 15 times as likely to die from drug misuse as those in the least deprived areas.

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