November 16, 2023

Unequal Scotland revealed in wellbeing snapshot – Carnegie UK urges Scottish decision-makers to focus on long-term outcomes

by Carnegie UK

Wide gaps in quality of life between different groups in Scottish society have been revealed in new research from Carnegie UK and Ipsos.

Disabled people, people on lower incomes, those living in social housing or private rented accommodation, and younger people have lower levels of wellbeing according to the study.  While similar trends are found across the UK, the Dunfermline-based foundation argues for new Scottish Parliament legislation to tackle the problem and to improve public policy development and delivery.

Carnegie’s new Life in the UK Index measures the wellbeing of the people of the UK by examining answers to questions across social, environmental, economic, and democratic themes. The research is based on a survey of 6941 people from across the UK, including 1132 from Scotland.

Sarah Davidson, chief executive of Carnegie UK, said: “Our research paints a picture of an unequal Scotland. While this pattern is seen across the UK, that makes the situation no more acceptable and action to address this problem no less crucial.

“We recognise that many of these inequalities are deep-rooted, but that can’t be a barrier to action. We need policy to focus on helping those in need today, as well as a long-term commitment to ensuring everyone has what they need to live well in the future.”

In a similar pattern to the rest of the UK, the research reveals a lack of trust in political systems and institutions. Almost four fifths (79%) of respondents in Scotland feel that they have no influence over UK Government decision-makers; three fifths (60%) feel the same about the Scottish Government; while half of respondents (51%) feel they have no influence over local decision-makers.

The research found that rising costs were having a big impact on wellbeing both in Scotland and across the UK. Nearly a fifth (19%) of people in Scotland reported difficulties heating their home, in line with the UK average (17%).

Concerningly, 6 per cent of people in Scotland surveyed reported that they could not feed everyone in their household – in line with the UK average (also 6%).

In relation to climate change, the research found that almost half of the public (46%) in Scotland were dissatisfied with efforts to preserve the environment.

Sarah Davidson said: “Most people in Scotland feel that they have no influence over key government decision-makers. That’s perhaps of little surprise when the research shows so many people struggling to make ends meet or concerned about efforts to help the planet.

“That’s why we want to see all spheres of government do more to involve people in their decision-making through initiatives like citizen juries. By including more of our citizens in debating and understanding the choices that need to be made, we will get better policy and higher levels of confidence in our political institutions.”

Carnegie UK is supportive of Sarah Boyack MSP’s proposed Wellbeing and Sustainable Development members’ bill. These proposals are similar to the legislation passed in Wales that created their Future Generations Commissioner.

Sarah Davidson said: “We’re right behind new Scottish Parliament wellbeing legislation to introduce more long-termism and co-ordination to our efforts to tackle the biggest challenges of our time. A new Future Generations Commissioner for Scotland would provide a vital counterbalance to the short-term dynamic created by our political cycle.

“The Scottish Government has emphasised its commitment to a wellbeing approach in public policy. Now is the time for decision-makers at Holyrood to turn warm words into concrete action by strengthening their approach.”



Notes to editors

  • The Life in the UK Index has been devised to track the wellbeing of the UK’s people over time. The Index consists of an overall collective wellbeing score, calculated from a score for each of four themes: social, environmental, economic and democratic wellbeing. The score for each is based on several different survey questions relevant to that wellbeing theme.
  • The Life in the UK Index is based upon a 26-question online survey of a representative UK sample of 6941 adults (1132 from Scotland) aged 16+ between 18-24 May 2023. The data was collected using the Ipsos UK KnowledgePanel, an online random probability panel which provides gold standard insights into the UK population, by providing bigger sample sizes via the most rigorous research methods.
  • Data are weighted by gender, age, region, education, ethnicity, Index of Multiple Deprivation quintile, number of adults in the household, to reflect the profile of the UK population.
  • The collective wellbeing score for Scotland is 61 out of a possible 100, while the UK score is 62 out of a possible 100.
  • The results to individual survey questions can be found in data tables found here.
  • The Life in the UK score for democratic wellbeing is substantially lower than all other wellbeing domain scores and brings down the overall collective wellbeing score for the UK and Scotland considerably.
  • Read a paper from Carnegie UK looking at what Scotland could learn from Wales in relation to a Future Generations Commissioner. Read more about Sarah Boyack’s proposed legislation. Read an article in The Scotsman where Sarah Davidson outlines Carnegie UK’s support for the legislation.
  • Carnegie UK and Ipsos designed, developed and analysed the Index in partnership. The recommendations outlined in the Life in the UK Index report are Carnegie UK’s alone.
  • Carnegie UK’s purpose is better wellbeing for people in the UK and Ireland. We are a charitable foundation set up over 100 years ago, based in Dunfermline and established with an endowment from Andrew Carnegie.


Stuart Mackinnon: [email protected]