WEALTH inequality in Scotland has widened, with the richest 1 per cent of the population now owning more than the poorest 50 per cent, according to a Scottish Government report.

Based on interviews with 4000 Scots between July 2012 and June 2014, the Wealth and Assets survey found the total wealth of Scots citizens was £856 billion in 2012/14.

This followed a record increase in total wealth of 22 per cent since 2010/12.

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Around half the wealth was in private pensions, a quarter in property and the rest split roughly 50:50 between physical goods and financial assets, such as stocks and savings.

The wealthiest 10 per cent of households owned 43 per cent of all private wealth (£374bn), but 67 per cent of financial wealth and 54 per cent of private pensions.

The least wealthy half of households owned £45bn or 5 per cent of total wealth, including 2 per cent of financial wealth, 5 per cent of property, and 18 per cent of physical wealth.

The poorest households had an average of £500 in cash or savings in cash of an emergency, the same as in 2006/08; the median value for the wealthiest 10 per cent was £103,416, up from £80,500 in 2006/08.

The report highlighted the growing difficulty for those living in poverty to change their circumstances by accumulating wealth.

The poorest 30 per cent of households effectively had a collective property wealth of zero, because of the large number renting and mortgages in negative equity.

It said: “In 2012/14 wealth inequality increased in Scotland. The wealthiest 10 per cent owned 9.4 times more household wealth than the bottom 40 per cent. This is an increase from 8.8 in 2010/12.”

Referring to the division of household income into 10 per cent slices known as deciles, it said: “The ability to increase wealth, for the lowest wealth households, worsened in 2012/14.

“Nearly 60 per cent of households remained in the same decile. For the least wealthy, insufficient income can mean a lifetime of low wealth, despite being in employment.”

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: “The SNP presides over a Scotland with a growing divide between the richest and the rest. Their own figures show that that the gap between the richest and the rest has grown on their watch. These figures highlight the need for the Nationalists to get back to the day job and make Scotland a fairer place to bring up a family instead of further dividing communities with another independence referendum.”

SNP Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said inequality in Scotland had been “exacerbated” by UK government austerity and uncertainty over Brexit.

Her Government was "passionate about creating a fairer and more equal Scotland", and already taking action to tackle inequalities, including a new Child Poverty Bill and encouraging employers to pay the real living wage, she said.

"We will continue to look at developing new ways to help people overcome disadvantage and we need all of Scotland to work together to achieve this,” she added.