‘We’ve never had it so good’: The ‘problem’ of the working class in devolved Scotland

Law, Alex and Mooney, Gerry (2006). ‘We’ve never had it so good’: The ‘problem’ of the working class in devolved Scotland. Critical Social Policy, 26(3) pp. 523–542.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0261018306065607


Class has become the social condition that dare not it speak its name in the devolved Scotland. This is despite the persistence of marked class divisions and structured inequalities within contemporary Scottish society. We critically examine the most empirically sophisticated and coherent analysis of social class in Scotland – that provided by ‘the Edinburgh school’ of social scientists, particularly their claim that Scotland is now a prosperous, ‘professional society’ where only a small but significant minority are trapped in poverty. This paper further considers the extent to which ‘devolution’, and the dominant representations to which it has given rise, serve to generate a series of other myths in which class is both devalued but simultaneously mobilized in the negative portrayal of some of the most disadvantaged sections of the working class. Against an emerging, home-grown view of ‘New Scotland’ as a prosperous ‘Smart, Successful Scotland’, poverty and wealth inequalities continue to be a necessary feature of the division of labour. In Scotland, as elsewhere, class remains the pivot-point around which much of social policy is encoded and enacted.

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