Understanding Scotland – Economy December 2021

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We are delighted to present this Understanding Scotland report exploring the Scottish population’s attitudes to and expectations of the economy.

We begin by asking about practical aspects of the economy and finance, before zooming out to wider attitudes. We capture people’s recent experiences and current expectations regarding the economy and personal finance, and the extent to which they are satisfied with their incomes and work-life balance, as well as their wider attitudes towards Scotland’s economic model, and how the pandemic has changed these.

We find that people are feeling the financial sting of the pandemic, and are pessimistic about the economic and financial outlook, with evident concern over rising prices.

We also find evidence of disaffection with prevailing economic indicators and models – catalysed by the pandemic – and an appetite for a substantially different economic settlement.

Subsequent waves of the survey will monitor changes and trends in this data, and the value and insight of Understanding Scotland will grow exponentially over time, as we track, explain and anticipate long-term shifts and trends.

Key Takeaways

This edition of Understanding Scotland brings you insights from over 2,000 members of the adult (16+) Scottish public on some of the most important aspects of our economy.

  1. People are feeling the brunt of the pandemic – in general and in their pockets
    3 in 4 people in Scotland believe that general economic conditions are worse now than over the past 12 months, and a third report that their own financial circumstances have deteriorated over the same time frame.
  2. And they don’t expect things to get much better soon
    62% anticipate worsening economic conditions over the coming year. and 32% expect their financial situation to deteriorate. Only 15% and 17%, respectively, expect economic conditions and their own finances to get better.
  3. This has exacerbated pre-existing inequalties
    People in the most deprived fifth of communities were 10 percentage points more likely to report a deterioration in their financial circumstances than those in the most affluent areas, while 61% of the unemployed and 52% of the inactive and unable to work have seen their situation worsen.
  4. Many people are struggling to make ends meet
    37% of people report that their income is not satisfactorily meeting their costs of living, rising to 50% in the most deprived fifth of neighbourhoods. 81% of people anticipate spending more on utility bills in the coming year, and 59% expect to spend more on food and drink.
  5. Work-life balance appears wanting
    Less than a third (31%) of people are satisfied with their balance between paid and unpaid commitments, and 22% are dissatisfied. People in the most affluent areas are twice as likely as those in the most deprived areas to be satisfied with their work-life balance.
  6. The Scottish population is sceptical of GDP
    42% of people in Scotland believe that the pandemic has shown the need to move away from GDP as an indicator of success, with only 14% disagreeing, and 59% believe there is a tension between economic growth and environmental prosperity.
  7. But they still think it’s the best indicator we have
    45% judge that economic growth is the most effective way of improving living standards and wellbeing for the average member of society, with only 26% disagreeing.
  8. Most people think the economy works in the interests of business, rather than in the interests of ordinary people
    62% believe that the economy, as it is currently organised, works primarily in the interests of business. Only 12% saying it works in the interests of most people, while 72% say it does not.
  9. The pandemic has shaken up perceptions and assumptions
    3 in 4 believe that the pandemic has shown the need to re-evaluate who creates real value in the economy, and 62% say it has shown the need to move to a wellbeing economy.
  10. But people aren’t optimistic about its long-term impacts
    Only 16% of people said that the pandemic would ultimately change the economy for the better, compared to 54% disagreeing.