The Living Wage in Scotland: A Decade of Impact 

27 March 2024

Scotland is a place that believes in a wellbeing economy and fair work. Now, we have reached a significant milestone towards that end – 3,500 Living Wage employers.  

Despite the economic challenges affecting us all, employers from all industries and areas in Scotland are signalling that they want to prioritise the needs of their workers.

It’s now 10 years since Living Wage Scotland was launched – and we have seen a decade of incredible impact. More than 64,000 workers in Scotland have received a pay increase to the real Living Wage amounting to more than £465 million of extra wages in the pockets of low paid workers. 

We commend and thank every employer that has joined the Living Wage movement. You have contributed significantly to raising the profile of the business benefit and social value of paying workers enough to meet their everyday needs.  

Here we share some key moments reflecting on how far we’ve come on this journey together. We hope they inspire employers to further celebrate their Living Wage commitment, and others to join our growing movement.

The roots of the Scottish Living Wage Campaign 

The Living Wage movement was born from the efforts of workers, grassroots community activists, trade unions, faith groups, community leaders and civil society organisations.  

The Poverty Alliance launched the Scottish Living Wage Campaign in 2007 to challenge the injustice of in-work poverty. Similar campaigns were active across the UK, including in East London, where a campaign directly influenced the formation of the Living Wage Foundation in 2011.  

Campaigns for Living Wages have been, and still are, active across the globe – all with the shared belief that wages should reflect livings costs. A challenge in securing employer engagement and impact on these campaigns can be a lack of consensus on what a Living Wage rate should be. 

So a key shift in the UK Living Wage campaign was the development of a robust calculation of an hourly rate that could apply across the whole of the UK, with a higher rate in London to reflect higher living costs there. 

Calculating a real Living Wage for the UK brings convergence to the campaigns. 

With clarity on what a Living Wage actually was, different Living Wage campaigns in the UK could converge on a specific call to action: for employers to pay the independently calculated hourly rate, and to signal this by becoming accredited as Living Wage employers with the newly formed Living Wage Foundation in London. Significant early gains were made in London, and by 2014, awareness of the real Living Wage and employer accreditation were gaining ground across the UK. But there were fewer than 20 accredited Living Wage employers in Scotland.  

The Launch of Living Wage Scotland 

In partnership with the Living Wage Foundation, and with support from the Scottish Government, the Poverty Alliance launched The Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Initiative in 2014.We later amended the name to Living Wage Scotland for simplicity.  

Scottish based corporations SSE and abrdn (at the time known as Standard Life) helped form the Living Wage Scotland Leadership Group to advise on our approach to employer engagement. The Group includes trade unions, small businesses, charities, academics, and government representatives. 

The major shift for the Poverty Alliance was evolving from a civil society campaign to a programme focused on direct employer engagement. Through accreditation, employers can signal that they too share the common values of the campaign, that wages should reflect living costs.  

We have been able to witness the real, tangible difference made to workers and employers. Employers have told us how their Living Wage accreditation logo has become an important way of displaying commitment to responsible business practice. We have seen workers benefiting directly through real Living Wage uplifts, or indirectly, through increases to maintain pay differentials.  The modern Living Wage movement in Scotland, and across the UK, is now one of the leading examples of a successful campaign with measurable impact.   

First Milestones 

We reached 500 Living Wage employers in Scotland in 2016.  The pace of Living Wage employer accreditation began to outpace the rest of the UK, and today Scotland continues to boast a higher proportion of accredited employers compared to any other UK region. The Scottish Government became the the first national government to accredit as a Living Wage employer, Heart of Midlothian became the first Living Wage accredited football club in Scotland, alongside a flurry of public sector institutions and a range of charities, social enterprise and small businesses.  Stoats were celebrated as the 1000th Living Wage employer in Scotland in 2017.  

The continued growth of the Living Wage Movement 

We increased the Living Wage Scotland staff team to engage with more employers and began focussing engagement with industries where low pay was pervasive, such as Social Care, Retail, Hospitality and Tourism. We established the Living Wage in Hospitality and Tourism Steering Group to help inform our continuing approach.   

In 2019, Johnston of Elgin were named as the 1500th Living Wage employer in Scotland.  

In seeking to harness the power of place and local influencing power, we began developing the Living Wage Places scheme with support from Carnegie UK. Employers formed the first Living Wage City Action Group in Dundee. We are supporting efforts to make the Scottish Borders a Living Wage Region, and to make Living Wage Cities in Aberdeen and Edinburgh.  

During the pandemic, employers continued to join the Living Wage movement to signal support for their workforce and strengthen their organisational resilience. More than 200 employers signed up for Living Wage accreditation between the first lockdown in March 2020 and our (digital) Living Wage Week in November 2020. We reached the milestone of 2000 Living Wage employers in 2021. The Living Wage movement continued to grow from strength to strength.  

Next steps for the Living Wage movement in Scotland 

In 2021, we began administering Living Hours accreditation in Scotland, to increase the number of employers in Scotland recognised for their commitment to security of contracts and hours alongside a real Living Wage. In true Scotland style, employers here are leading the charge with more than 33% of all Living Hours accredited employers in the UK being based in Scotland. We hope to see continued growth in the Living Hours movement in the months and years to come. The trends from Living Wage in Scotland have shown that there are many more employers than we have engaged, that are seeking ways to go further to invest in their workforce and help create a just and equitable labour market.   

By 2022, we reached 2,500 employers with Luddon Construction and 3,000, by 2023 

Our Living Wage Scotland awards in 2023 were our biggest and best yet, and the ceremony at the iconic V&A Dundee was a mere snapshot of the fantastic leadership and powerful stories of impact within the Living Wage employer network in Scotland. 

It is with immense pride that the Poverty Alliance reflect on the decade of impact in 2024. With more than 3500 accredited Living Wage employers in Scotland, there are grounds for ambitious optimism for the workplaces of tomorrow.  

Our vision for the next 10 years is that in-work in poverty in Scotland will be a thing of the past. We hope to see a Scotland where every worker can earn what they need to thrive, through good jobs that promote their health and wellbeing.  

Thank you to every accredited Living Wage employer in Scotland for joining the movement.  

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