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Debate Briefing
1 June 2016

Introduction

SCVO welcomes the opportunity to submit a briefing in advance of this debate.

SCVO considers that ensuring the well-being and human rights of people across Scotland should be the guiding principle behind any vision for Scotland. This includes an economy that benefits everyone who lives in Scotland, not just the few. As it stands our economy has not served the poorest in our society well, to the detriment of individuals, wider society and the economy itself.

The simple, clear and strong message from our SCVO’s Economy for All paper published earlier this year was that less inequality equals a stronger economy. SCVO has argued previously and continues to advocate that reducing economic inequality should be prioritised by the Scottish Government as doing so will create a more sustainable economy and reduce poverty for individuals and communities across Scotland.

Income, Regional and Social Inequality

SCVO considers that any future Scottish Government economic strategies should focus on using the economy, and the wealth it creates, to tackle Scotland’s endemic social, health and income inequalities.

Scotland suffers from economic inequalities between its regions and cities. We know that economic inequality leads not only to poor economic outcomes but also has a considerable impact on our society. For example, employment impacts on a wide range of wellbeing indicators, including educational attainment, health and crime. Therefore, the regional disparity in employment rates, linked to the health of the local economy, impacts not only on an individual’s income but on their wider wellbeing. Therefore, we need strategies that strengthen all of our local, regional and national economies.

SCVO believes that sufficiency and security of income is vitally important. There are a number of approaches which could be taken to help address income inequality such as encouraging take-up of the Scottish Living Wage, a practical measure which enjoys strong consensus. There is also scope to look at the introduction of more secure contracts, improved working practices and better representation for employees within the workplace. There are also more unusual ideas which have been examined by a number of organisations including Oxfam and ourselves, such as the introduction of Citizen’s Income or a shorter working week.

In addition, the Health and Sport Committee’s report on Health Inequalities stated that ‘Economic growth alone will not be sufficient to address structural health inequalities.’ As such, whilst economic growth can lead to increased levels of employment, which may help to reduce health inequalities, this is not guaranteed.[i]

Furthermore, in seeking to achieve social equality we need to appreciate and value the different contributions people make to our society and economy whether or not they are paid for those contributions – as outlined in our Employability, social justice and contribution discussion paper. For example, those who care for family or friends sustain our society, aid our economy and support our communities. Recognising the role that they play in building a strong economy and a strong community, and ensuring that they are supported in that role is, SCVO considers, a guiding principle for a socially just economy.

As the Scottish Government’s Expert Group on Welfare stated, it is important to both “promote work as a realistic goal for anyone who can and provide effective support for those who are prevented from working”.[ii]  Given the new powers that will come to the Scottish Parliament following the passage of the Scotland Act, Parliament must recognise the challenges disabled people face in participating in the economy and use opportunities that arise from the devolution of social security and employability to rethink how we both help people into the economy and support those who are unable to work.

Conclusion

In conclusion SCVO advocates for a socially just economy based on human rights which puts people at the heart of their economy and society. We are heartened by the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackling inequality and recognition that doing so is integral to growing a strong economy. However, SCVO is keen to hear more about practical measures that could help achieve the income, regional, and social equality. We hope, therefore, that this debate will highlight some of the ways in which the Scottish Government will look to achieve these aims.

Contact:
Craig Wilson
Parliamentary Public Affairs Officer
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations,
Mansfield Traquair Centre
15 Mansfield Place
Edinburgh
EH3 6BB
Email: craig.wilson@scvo.org.uk       Tel: 0131 474 8031

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.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_HealthandSportCommittee/Reports/her-15-01w-rev.pdf

[ii] w.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00451915.pdf