A new Oxfam report found that global wealth inequality has continued to increase, but whether the same is true for Scotland has been debated.

Political blog Wings Over Scotland questioned a news article in The Herald on the report, and whether the gulf between the haves and have nots in Scotland is deepening”, as there was no specific mention of Scotland in the report.

Ferret Fact Service | Scotlands impartial fact check project

Ferret Fact Service looked at the claim that inequality is increasing in Scotland and found it to be True.


Scotland’s inequality is not directly referred to in the 2018 Reward Work, Not Wealth report, but there is evidence that suggests that the gap between the richest and poorest is increasing in Scotland.

Oxfam Scotland staff have been clear that the findings of their report relate to Scotland, as much as anywhere else. In a CommonSpace report, Dr. Katherine Trebeck, Oxfam’s Senior Researcher in Glasgow, said: “This isn’t a faraway crisis. We know that in Scotland, having a job doesn’t always mean escaping poverty.”

A widening inequality gap was also highlighted in Oxfam Scotland’s 2017 report, Building a More Equal Scotland: Designing Scotland’s Poverty and Inequality Commission.

UK Government statistics on low household income included in the 2017 report show that on two recognised measurements, also used by the Scottish Government, income inequality has increased in recent years.

Inequality can be measured in a number of different ways.

Data generated by both the Gini coefficient and the Palma Ratio found income inequality to be at “historically high levels last seen in the early 1990s”.

The Palma Ratio is the measure of inequality preferred by the Scottish Government. It compares the income share of the top ten per cent of people to the bottom 40 per cent. This also shows that inequality has been rising in Scotland in line with the UK.

In 2015/16, the most recent year where data was available the data shows a sharp rise on previous years. In 2015/16 was at its highest point ever recorded in the 17 years that this data has been compiled.

The Gini Coefficient is another way of measuring inequality, which looks how equally income is spread. The lower the Gini value, the more equal a society.

The Gini coefficient data for Scotland also shows a sharp rise in 2015/16. On this measure inequality in Scotland is also at a historic high, although similar highs were observed in 2000/01 and 2008/09.

Wings over Scotland also questioned several of the claims made in The Herald.

Its report stated that the richest one per cent has more wealth than the bottom 50 per cent combined” and an editorial in the newspaper said that Scotland’s “10 richest families or individuals were last year estimated to have a combined wealth of £14.7bn”.

The Herald does not cite the source of the latter claim, but it appears to originate from the 2017 Sunday Times Rich List.

Though not referenced or cited in its 2018 report, the 2017 Oxfam Scotland report states that “the richest one per cent own more wealth than the bottom 50 per cent put together.”

This statistic comes from the Scottish Government’s 2017 report Wealth and Assets in Scotland, 2006-2014 and is cited as such in Oxfam Scotland’s 2017 report.

It states that “Scotland – like the rest of Great Britain – faces stark inequalities in wealth… The wealthiest one per cent alone owned more wealth than the bottom 50 per cent.”

The report also highlights the growing rate of wealth inequality in recent years, finding that the “wealthiest 10 per cent of households owned 9.4 times the net household wealth of the bottom 40 per cent” between 2012 and 14.

In the previous period from 2010 to 2012, the wealthiest owned 8.8 times the household wealth of those in the bottom 40 per cent.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: True

No specific increase in Scotland’s wealth inequality is directly referenced in Oxfam’s 2018 report. However, government data has shown clear increases in the gap between the richest and poorest in Scotland.

This claim is True

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our community forum.


  1. The claim is true, but the story in the Herald begins with a falsehood - it says that the headline is justified by the Oxfam report. Your report tells us that this is not so: that if you wish to investigate the matter you have to go to other sources.

  2. tompate says:

    I think The Ferret has been naughty with this one. The Wings article did not seek to argue the Inequality case one way or the other, but instead to hold The Herald to account for the story it concocted out of the Oxfam report. And it seems to me there can be no doubt the story was concocted.

    To imply, as The Ferret does, that Wings instead sought to claim, against all available evidence, that wealth inequality in Scotland has not increased, is simply untrue.

    A Ferret ‘fact check’ on the Wings criticisms of The Herald story might have been appropriate, but not on the issue of widening Inequality itself, which Wings did not seek to dispute.

  3. As the contributors before me have stated, you are letting yourself down a little on this. WoS never disputed the sentiment in the headlines in the Herald, just the fact that Oxfam made no specific reference to Scotland.

    Oxfam is correct and as Scotland is part of the world, and still subject to the macroeconomic levers controlled at WM, then we too suffer from the same phenomenon. In fact I recently heard that the richest 6 people in the world own more wealth than the poorest half of the planet! Six people!!

    However, the way you have characterised the above, to the casual reader, would imply WoS was wrong and the Herald right. The Herald extrapolated and used other sources without ever referencing them.

    I really do expect better from you. The Herald, well it’s becoming the Scottish equivalent of the Daily Sport!

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