SCOTLAND may not be able to tackle major health inequalities in cities like Glasgow because key areas including employment and social security powers are devolved, a new report has warned.
Research carried out by Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) looking at progress made over the past four years to reduce excess deaths found that in some key areas, “very little has changed.”
GCPH published a report in 2016 which identified the most likely causes of high levels of ‘excess mortality’ seen in Scotland but particularly in Glasgow.
According to the study, the explanation was complex, but at its heart lay a “toxic combination” of poor historical living conditions and adverse policy-making at different levels of government, which has been described as the ‘Glasgow effect.’
The report set out 26 policy recommendations, aimed primarily at the Scottish Government and local authorities which included a more progressive taxation system, the introduction of a Living Wage and a social security system that ensures “all in society have sufficient income.”
A report led by David Walsh, Public Health Programme Manager, found good progress has been made in areas including social housing, public sector pay, pre-school education and child poverty.
However, the report argues that other priority areas have seen very little progress, most notably where policy is reserved, including employment and social security.
Commenting on the findings, Mr Walsh writes: “The Scottish Government can be proud, not least in relation to social housing provision, public sector pay, pre-school education, and the Child Poverty Act.
“The latter, for example, commits the Scottish Government to reducing child poverty to 10% by 2030: contrast that with the UK government which, in 2016, abolished child poverty targets altogether.”
“However, in a number of recommendations have seen very little progress.
“The report also raises important questions regarding the extent to which the devolved Scottish administration has the capacity to achieve its stated aim of narrowing inequalities in society.
“How do you protect the vulnerable in society when the majority of social security powers are not in the Scottish Government’s gift?
“How do you protect the health of the poorest when Westminster austerity measures have resulted in increased mortality rates in disadvantaged neighbourhoods across the UK?
“How do you meaningfully address the drivers of in-work poverty – low pay, zero hours contracts, the so-called ‘gig economy’ – when employment law remains reserved to Westminster.”
The paper warns of the impact of a post-pandemic economic recession combined with a decade of austerity policies that have “devastated the poor.”
However, it also argues that the society that emerges can also be influenced significantly by national (Scottish) and local policy-making.