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Poll shows Scots believe the country is “stuck in a rut”, as poverty escalates

Brown: Poll shows Scots believe the country is “stuck in a rut”, as poverty escalates

“We are now seeing poverty I never thought I’d ever again see in my lifetime”

Majority of £715m spent on Scottish social security bureaucracy would be better used in paying £2000 to families with children in poverty

FORMER Prime Minister Gordon Brown will call for greater cooperation between the Scottish and UK Governments at the Edinburgh Book Festival this evening, saying the two governments need to work together to tackle the return of malnutrition, destitution and poverty.

He will highlight a new poll which shows Scots believe the country today is stuck in a rut.

Mr Brown will say that the “stand-off” between the UK and Scottish Governments is “trapping Scotland in negativity and pessimism” and will urge them to work on what is Scotland’s clear economic priority, tackling deprivation.

His appearance at the Festival comes after it emerged at the weekend that cases of rickets in Scotland nearly match levels seen across the whole of England.

The new polling by Our Scottish Future asked 1,000 Scots whether they agreed or disagreed that, after a decade of constitutional division, Scotland feels in a rut.

Only 10% disagreed, and 53% agreed it did. Stripping out those who said they neither agreed nor disagreed, the figures were 84% agreed and 16% disagreed.

Previous OSF polling which asked people to set out what kind of economy they wanted for Scotland found that “creating an economy with low levels of poverty” was the most popular. Among seven options, 28% supported it, compared to only 7% whose priority was “a low tax economy.”

OSF has also found that 60% of people want to see more cooperation between Scottish and UK Governments on poverty relief.

Mr Brown will cite the collective polling evidence at this evening’s event to argue that a fresh drive to tackle poverty is a way to get Scotland out of its rut.

He will say:

“Scots believe that Scotland is stuck in a rut with a standoff between the Scottish and UK Governments and a Punch and Judy show between Conservative Ministers on the one hand and SNP Ministers in Scotland on the other, trapping us in negativity and pessimism.”

“That is why I say to UK and Scottish Ministers that it is time to agree on the urgent need to cooperate in the interests of solving poverty rather than a stand-off that helps no one.”

Mr Brown will point to the flawed and expensive roll out of new Scottish benefits as an example of how the poorest families and taxpayers have been short-changed by the failure to collaborate.

Official figures show that the overall administrative costs of setting up the Scottish social security agency has now reached £715.4 million over 8 years – more than double initial estimates.

“The bureaucratic costs of administering benefits paid from the social security agency in Scotland is far higher than promised,” Mr Brown will say. 

“A better solution would be to cooperate, as we do with Scottish and UK income tax systems, using a single system, with one computer, one application system, one check system, and one payment and audit system.  Such is the cost of the current system, we estimate that the duplication of two systems has meant that we could have paid the families of 250,000 poor children around £2000 each – a better way of relieving poverty rather than funding an expensive bureaucracy.”

Mr Brown will describe the failure to arrange a single system as “a toxic combination of Scottish ultra-go-it-alone nationalism and British gross negligence that allows escalating levels of poverty to continue through working on separate solutions without saving money by cooperating.”

Mr Brown’s speech comes after it emerged this weekend that cases of Rickets – a disease caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D – has risen by 33% in Scotland and that the number of cases in Scotland are similar to those seen across the UK as a whole.

He will add: “We are now seeing poverty that I never thought I’d see again with worrying episodes of rickets, malnutrition and destitution and a failure to tackle it head on with cooperation between the two governments.”

He will also highlight figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2020 which found a 52% increase in the rates of destitution between 2017 and 2019 – and warn that this figure will now have risen further.

“Today, over 1 million – 1,110,000 – Scots, or 21% of Scotland’s population, are in poverty, including 250,000 children. The vast majority of those children are living in working households where breadwinners simply don’t earn enough to make ends meet”.

“This is the reality for many but for some it is far, far worse. This coming autumn, figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation are expected to confirm that the numbers of people suffering from destitution – where families have extremely low income and limited access to essentials like food, heating and basic toiletries – has virtually doubled over recent years.”

Mr Brown will also note separate figures which show a doubling of those in “deep poverty”: in 1994–1997, 27% — 250,900 – of those in poverty lived in very deep poverty, but in the latest figures, that number has risen to 46% – over 500,000.


Notes to editors


  1. Polling was carried out by Focaldata for Our Scottish Future, 9-14 August 2023

    After the last decade of constitutional debate, Scotland now feels stuck in a rut | To what extent do you agree with the following statements. Please answer on a scale of 1-5, where 1 means “Strongly Disagree” and 5 means “Strongly Agree”.


Figures on the cost of Social Security Scotland are available on page 71 here:


Statistics on poverty can be found here 


Details of Mr Brown’s event at the Book Festival this evening can be found here:

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