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Only one-third of Scots believe society to be fair

Posted: 26th September 2019
  • New PwC report identifies five tests for building a fairer future
  • Only 30% of Scots agree that society as a whole is ‘fair’ with 34% disagreeing
  • 43% of Scots say UK Government not doing a good enough job of ensuring fairness in society

More than one-third of Scots believe society is unfair, with just 30% believing that it is fair,  according to new research from PwC, which aims to identify how the public define ‘fairness’. When asked whether they believe “British society is fair”, 34% of Scots disagreed with the statement.

PwC’s latest Future of Government report, Making the UK Fairer, which surveyed 4,000 people across the UK, found 70% agreeing that government is primarily responsible for achieving fairness across the UK, but only 24% of Scots believe that government does a good job when it comes to making sure people are treated fairly; 43% said they disagreed with the statement.

PwC set out to identify how the public define ‘fairness’, if they perceive themselves as being treated fairly and how they perceive the role of government in facilitating a fair society. The Steering Group, chaired by the Rt Hon Alan Milburn – former Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Secretary of State for Health – aims to identify practical ways to apply fairness in policy making and public service delivery.

The poll found the overwhelming majority (79%) of respondents in Scotland define fairness as ensuring that everyone is given an equal opportunity to achieve, two percentage points fewer than the UK overall (81%).

Most participants agreed that a definition of ‘fairness’ starts with everyone having access to food and shelter, being free from poverty and where children can access high quality education.

A separate question asking if “society treats people like me fairly” saw 42% of Scots agreeing compared with 39% across the UK. Only London and Northern Ireland had higher percentages of those questioned (54% and 50% respectively), from 12 nations and regions in the UK. Just 20% of Scots disagreed with this statement, as compared with 24% UK-wide.

Based on the survey results and on extensive engagement with senior UK government officials, and leaders in public sector service provision and business, PwC’s Making the UK Fairer report has created a framework of five tests for fairness. These draw on best practice elsewhere, including New Zealand’s Wellbeing budget priorities and on PwC and Demos’ rolling research into Good Growth for Cities where health and happiness – and not merely wealth – is a measure of fairness in society.

The PwC report believes that the five tests could be used by government to design and test public policy that could help build a fairer future for the UK. The five tests are:

  • Provide for fundamental needs, prioritising the vulnerable and those in greatest need
  • Help people earn a decent living and prepare for the future world of work
  • Close the “fairness gap” between places and opportunities
  • Give individuals more control over the services they access
  • Empower communities to shape the places they live

Rt Hon Alan Milburn, Chair of the steering group, commented:

“Addressing these fault lines in UK society is clearly a major challenge but it’s critical that we do so. If the UK is to fulfil its potential in the world, whatever our future relationship with the EU might look like, we need to ensure that everyone in our society is fairly represented.

“This new framework of five tests built on the public’s priorities will be a critical tool for the government to test and design public policy in a way that would build a fairer future for the UK. The concept of fairness remains a central pillar of British identity and one we must embrace to close the significant opportunity gap in our society”

Stewart Wilson, Head of Government and Public Sector for PwC, said:

“This report is about starting a conversation on where society in the UK is heading. It’s about fairness and inclusion, and we want to help policymakers with practical pointers to direct public policy towards these ends.

“Discussions with the public and our clients has helped us gather robust quantitative data, and having analysed the results, this report sets out some new thinking that we hope will be helpful for policy makers looking to create a better future for all of us.”

“While our research shows that just 30% of Scots believe that society is fair, this is more than in a number of the nations and regions of the UK we asked, compared to just 22% in the North West of England, while at the other end of the scale, 45% in London agreed with the statement. So while there is work to be done in improving fairness, Scotland is starting from a higher base than some parts of the UK.”

Designing and delivering ‘fairness’ is not a new notion. Successive governments, including three reviews by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Social Mobility Commission’s recent State of the Nation 2018-19 report, have challenged how to make the economy work for everyone and how people of all backgrounds can get equal opportunities.

The Making the UK Fairer report is the first in a series of PwC Future of Government publications and was created by listening to views on fairness from business, our staff and the UK public.  We will share our emerging agenda of practical proposals for action over the course of the autumn 2019, looking at how to apply our framework to the following priorities: How we work, How we access services and Where we live.

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