20th January 2015

The third sector in Scotland has long thought that ensuring the well-being of people across Scotland should be the guiding principle behind any vision for Scotland.

Inequality is not just about the money in people’s pockets. It’s about a range of other issues such as health, education, gender and access to services and opportunity.

In effect, it’s about the overall wellbeing of those living in Scotland.

1) SCVO is pleased the that Scottish Government has recognised the link between inequality and the strength of Scotland’s economy and as a result is prioritising tackling inequality alongside creating a sustainable economy. SCVO addressed this issue in our briefing for MSPs ahead of the Scottish Government’s ‘Boosting the Economy’ debate (which can be found on SCVO’s website[i]). Our briefing noted that:

  • Economic inequality leads not only to poor economic outcomes but also has a considerable impact on our society
  • Sufficiency and security of income is important when tackling inequality and promoting wellbeing
  • To achieve social equality we need to appreciate and value the different contributions people make to our society and economy regardless of whether they are paid for said contribution

2) Health inequalities have recently been examined in depth by the parliament’s Health and Sport Committee. SCVO agrees wholeheartedly with the Committee’s conclusion that economic growth alone will not be sufficient to address structural health inequalities in Scotland.[ii] In our response to Scottish Labour’s Health Inequalities Policy Review SCVO stated that the key to tackling the health inequalities in Scotland is the creation of joined-up policies.[iii] We need to acknowledge health’s relationship with issues such as financial security, job quality, and environment when addressing inequalities. SCVO further believes we need to look at where finances are directed in terms of health, moving from the acute to the preventative.

3) With a high of 85% in Orkney and a low of 63% in Dundee it’s evident that there is significant regional disparity in employment rates.[iv] While this is in part related to the health of the local economy, unemployment is not merely the result of a weak local labour market. Just because there are jobs out there does not mean that people are necessarily in the position to take them. There are a range of well-known barriers to employment such as the affordability of childcare and caring duties. This, therefore, is inequality of opportunity. Given that we know unemployment can have a significant impact on equalities and individual wellbeing as well as on regional levels of educational attainment, health and crime we need to look at the equality of employment opportunities for all those living in Scotland. Once again this is an area where joined-up policy making is required.

4) SCVO acknowledges the commitment of the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to equal opportunities; however, there are still significant inequalities across Scotland relating to race, disability, sexual orientation and gender. Most notably these groups suffer discrimination when looking for employment and then within the workplace. There are also other aspects of inequality such as access to public transport and buildings for the disabled and the confidence LGBT individuals feel in reporting a crime. How we address these aspects of inequality requires thinking beyond the Government’s economic focus on inequality as many of these issues are about culture change, education, enforcement and accountability.

5) We also need to consider other kinds of inequality such as that demonstrated by the disparity in digital participation. Beyond the debate about access to reliable, fast broadband is the fact that more than a million people in Scotland are lacking the skills and/or confidence to be online. Consequently, they’re excluded from certain social forums, are unable to access certain information or make their voices heard. This is about more than simply being able to shop or bank online. They also cannot, for example, use the internet to search and apply for jobs. Again, this is about equality of access and opportunity.

6) Quite simply not all of Scotland’s communities, be they geographic or of interest, are equal. They do not all have access to the necessary resources or support in order to help them care for one another and make their community thrive. This disparity has been raised in the on-going discussions around the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill where concerns have been raised that more affluent communities, who may have greater access to, for example, legal advice, will disproportionately benefit from the Bill and take advantage of what it offers.

7) Economic growth will not itself solve the issue of inequality in Scotland. SCVO urges the Scottish Government to look at other ways in which we can help improve the lives of those living in Scotland. SCVO hopes that this debate will look beyond the issue of economic and income equality to consider the other challenges Scotland faces in terms of addressing, for example, gender inequality or health inequalities. While some of these are linked to economic inequality they are not solely the result of that disparity. Therefore we need to look at other ways of tackling inequality beyond financial prosperity.

8) Tackling inequality in Scotland is not something the Government can do alone. A partnership approach across all sectors is required if we are to make Scotland more equal. The third sector works in ways which are primarily preventative, seeking to improve people’s overall wellbeing by providing services such as befriending, community transport or youth groups. Such services, which are often underappreciated in this regard, are invaluable in helping to tackle inequality. Consequently, SCVO considers that the third sector with its experience, connections and resources ought to be considered an asset in tackling inequality and be included as an equal partner in planning and designing services which aim to address the imbalances across Scotland.


Kate Wane
Policy Officer

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations,
Mansfield Traquair Centre,
15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB

Email: kathryn.wane@scvo.org.uk
Tel: 0131 474 6157
Web: www.scvo.org.uk

About us

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is the national body representing the third sector.There are over 45,000 voluntary organisations in Scotland involving around 138,000 paid staff and approximately 1.3 million volunteers. The sector manages an income of £4.9 billion.

SCVO works in partnership with the third sector in Scotland to advance our shared values and interests. We have over 1,600 members who range from individuals and grassroots groups, to Scotland-wide organisations and intermediary bodies.

As the only inclusive representative umbrella organisation for the sector SCVO:

  • has the largest Scotland-wide membership from the sector – our 1,600 members include charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations of all shapes and sizes
  • our governance and membership structures are democratic and accountable – with an elected board and policy committee from the sector, we are managed by the sector, for the sector
  • brings together organisations and networks connecting across the whole of Scotland

SCVO works to support people to take voluntary action to help themselves and others, and to bring about social change. Further details about SCVO can be found at www.scvo.org.uk.


[i] http://www.scvo.org.uk/long-form-posts/scvo-briefing-scottish-government-boosting-the-economy-debate/

[ii] https://storage.googleapis.com/scvo-cms/S4_HealthandSportCommittee/Reports/her-15-01w-rev.pdf

[iii] Again our full response can be found on the SCVO website: http://www.scvo.org.uk/long-form-posts/scottish-labour-health-inequalities-policy-review-scvo-response/

[iv] http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Labour-Market/Publications/APSOS13Tables