Why are poverty and inequality on the rise in the UK?

In the UK, there is an increasing gap between the richest and the poorest in society. And poverty rates are expected to rise more in the upcoming years. But this is not a new thing. Relative to our nearest neighbours in north west Europe it has been getting worse under both Labour and Tory governments.

Currently, the impact of a decade of UK government welfare cuts and has been further exacerbated by the pandemic and cost of living crisis. This sees household incomes decreasing whilst inequality increases.

Around 14.4 million people were living in poverty in the UK in 2022, according to the government’s own official statistics – around one in five people. Many people are struggling to afford the basic necessities and are relying on foodbanks and warm banks to survive. 

Brexit has been a key factor in causing these food price rises – a policy imposed on Scotland by the Westminster Tory government and which Keir Starmer now supports.

But this state of affairs is nothing new. In 2016 a BBC article reported that Oxfam said the UK was “one of the most unequal countries in the developed world”. And in 2019 a UN Report called UK poverty levels a ‘social calamity’ and ‘economic disaster rolled into one’.

And Labour is not the answer with Keir Starmer abandoning his leadership promises and echoing Tory policies. In the year Tony Blair won power his government began cutting social security for lone parents and two years after that cut benefits for the disabled.

The Scottish Government is working hard to reduce the impact of this on the most vulnerable households. A UK poverty report has shown that Scotland has lower poverty levels compared to England and Wales; and Scottish Government action has been recognised by a UN report which said the devolved administrations were aiding the fight against poverty but that it was financially “unsustainable”.

With independence,  Scotland can have full control of all financial levers which will allow it to take even more positive action to make Scotland a fairer place to live like our neighbours in north west Europe