Amidst economic uncertainties, the latest wave of Understanding Scotland reveals nuanced attitudes among Scots. A significant number believe Scotland is heading in the wrong direction, with the proportion of those believing it is on the right track at a record low.

Survey fieldwork coincided with significant political changes: First Minister Humza Yousaf resigned, after ending the Bute House Agreement, and now First Minister John Swinney had announced his bid for the role. Since then, a UK Parliament General Election has been announced for 4 July.

As voters prepare to go to the polls, healthcare and the cost of living remain top priorities, among Scots. These concerns will significantly influence political party platforms ahead of the election.

The latest data highlights ongoing challenges in income adequacy and financial stability, with a slight decline in satisfaction levels since late 2023. Many Scots express discontent with their income and ability to cover living costs.

Despite incremental improvements, apprehensions persist over general economic conditions, perceived as worse than the previous year. However, there are signs of cautious optimism, with a modest increase in those viewing their personal finances more favourably.

This wave explored financial wellbeing, revealing the profound impact of financial strain on overall wellbeing. Over half of Scots report deteriorated financial health compared to the previous year, impacting mental and physical health, relationships, and work effectiveness. This underscores the interconnectedness of financial wellbeing and broader societal welfare.

 

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This edition of Understanding Scotland brings you insights from over 2,200 members of the adult (16+) Scottish public on the most important aspects of our society and economy.

1. Societal Impacts: Ripple Effects of Worsening Financial Wellbeing

More than half of Scots report deteriorated financial health compared to the previous year. This decline is associated with significant impacts on mental and physical health, interpersonal relationships, and effectiveness at work, highlighting the profound impact of financial strain on overall wellbeing and the interconnectedness of individual financial wellbeing and broader societal welfare.

2.Financial Strain: Scots’ Income Challenges Continue

The latest data highlights ongoing challenges in income adequacy and financial stability. Only one in three (34%) respondents express contentment with their income levels and covering the cost of living, down from 37% previously. This decline in satisfaction regarding meeting household bills and managing commitments, reflects the ongoing challenge for many to make ends meet.

3.Public Perception: Scotland’s Shift in Mood

The latest data reveals a significant shift in public sentiment, with a striking 62% of Scots expressing that they believe things in Scotland to be going in the wrong direction. This marks an increase from 58% in February 2024 and is the highest ever recorded in the Understanding Scotland series, signalling a growing unease among Scots regarding the direction of the nation. Conversely, the proportion believing that Scotland is headed in the right direction is now only one in five (19%).

4. Economic Sentiments: Gauging Scotland’s Financial Pulse

Two in three (66%) Scots perceive general economic conditions as worse now than 12 months ago – a slight reduction on last quarter. There are signs of very cautious optimism, with a modest uptick in those viewing their personal financial circumstances to have improved in the previous 12 months up two percentage points to 14% since the last wave. This suggests a nuanced economic outlook characterised by enduring economic uncertainty.

5. Public priorities: Stability overall with subtle shifts in emphasis

Healthcare continues to retain its prominence, with over half of Scots prioritising it. While the cost of living, also remains a significant priority for Scots with 40% identifying it as one of the top issues facing Scotland. A host of other issues remain of importance to Scots, including poverty/inequality, trust in politics, the economy and housing, which are regularly selected as top issues facing Scotland by more than one in six Scots (over 15%). However, there are notable changes in prioritisation among these issues, with emphasis on trust in politics rising two percentage points to 18% and emphasis on the economy falling two percentage points to 17%.