Tackling poverty and inequality is a key concern for Scots – though those living in the least deprived areas are more likely to be worried about the economy.
Just over a third of people (34%) described dealing with the problem of poverty and inequality as the top issue of concern facing Scotland right now – compared to 26% who cited the economy.
But the first ever Understanding Scotland survey found that amongst those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods, 38% were concerned about poverty and inequality – with less than a fifth (19%) worried about the economy.
By contrast, in the least deprived areas the economy was listed as a top concern by 34%.
More than 2,000 people across Scotland were questioned for the survey, which has been launched by the research company Diffley Partnership and communications agency Charlotte Street Partners.
It plans to provide quarterly research looking at public attitudes, behaviours and expectations on issues such as society, the economy, and the environment in Scotland.
Its first poll found that the NHS is Scotland’s most trusted institution with almost a fifth (19%) saying they trusted it “entirely” and nearly three quarters of people (72%) giving the service a trust score of seven out of 10 or higher.
Meanwhile the research found that “the Government and the political system more broadly, were among the least trusted institutions overall”.
According to the study, 20% of the Scottish population report that they do not trust the Government at all, compared to only 3% who trust it entirely – with similarly 20% saying they trust the political system and only 2% who trust it entirely.
When asked if Scotland was “heading in the right direction” people were evenly split, with 43% saying it was and the same proportion stating it is not, while 14% were undecided.
“The country is split down the middle on the question of whether Scotland is heading in the right or wrong direction,” the research found.
“Excluding those who are unsure, there is a 50:50 split in public opinion.”
Speaking about the new study, Diffley Partnership founder and director Mark Diffley said: “Assessing the public mood as we emerge from the pandemic and start to deal with the economic headwinds coming towards us provides sobering reading for decision-makers.
“The public wants to see a fair recovery, focused both on tackling the inequalities that Covid has exacerbated and building the economic recovery.
“There is also significant concern about the issues dominating current debates, particularly around price rises and the cost of living.”
He added: “After the collective trauma of the last 18 months, it is unsurprising to see that the NHS is Scotland’s most trusted institution, far outstripping public trust in other institutions.
“This trust in the NHS spans the entire Scottish population, regardless of age, social class, or geographical location, reflecting a widespread respect and admiration for those who have led the front-line response to the Covid crisis.”
Malcolm Robertson, founding partner at Charlotte Street Partners, said: “The last 18 months have highlighted the need for fast but highly informed decision making and we hope the new Understanding Scotland survey will help inform private and public sector organisations and policymakers as they weigh up a range of important decisions in the coming months and years.
“We have felt for a while that Scotland lacks a regular record of public opinion on the range of issues people are concerned about and we hope this new survey, Understanding Scotland, will serve that purpose as we continue to recover from Covid-19 and look ahead to decisive moments for the future of our planet, such as the Cop26 gathering in Glasgow.”