Statista asserts the average salary north of the border is £31,672. This is actually higher than the UK average salary of £31,285. This also shows that on average Scotland is the best-paid country in the United Kingdom. This is seconded by parliamentary findings which showed the median weekly pay in the country was £622. Contrastly, the figure in England was £611. This again showed that Scottish people are the highest-paid employees on average in the UK. Scotland also saw higher wages than most regions in England, yet it was dwarfed by London.

Scotland, despite its small population of less than 5.5 million, is a relatively rich country. This is because its geographical location near the north sea means it is rich in oil. In 2020 97.4% of the country's electricity came from renewable sources, so nearly all oil can be sold on for profit.

This article will look at why Scotland has relatively high wages and if that average is truly reflective of Scottish wealth. It will also show the highest and lowest earning areas in the country.

One of the reasons the average annual salary in Scotland is relatively high is because of the education system. According to Eurostat, Scotland has the best education in Europe. For example, Scotland provides free higher education. This removes the educational paywall, allowing children from low-income families to achieve a university education. Furthermore, bursaries and grants are given to students from low-income families to support them financially when studying.

The average annual salary of graduates is around £10,000 more than non-graduates. This was shown by both government national statistics in 2019 and 2020 results by Statista.

It is also worth noting that although Scotland was hit hard by the effects of Covid 19 and the associated restrictions, it has quickly bounced back. For example, even amongst this uncertainty, people in the accountancy and finance sectors saw their annual salary grow by 5.1%. The biggest annual salary increase was seen among administrators who experienced an average 9.7% increase in their salaries.

Although Scotland has high salaries, a staggering number of people also claim benefits. Strikingly 52% of households in Scotland receive some form of benefit - more than half the population. However, this is actually the third lowest in the UK. Only South East England and London have lower rates.

The country also had the second-highest unemployment rate in the UK behind England as of November 2021. This means that the true earnings, or how much money people have is largely skewed by non-inclusive statistics. This is because benefits and unemployment is not factored in. Also, both the Statista and parliamentary reports only analysed full-time employees. This meant the salaries of the 664,400 part-time workers were also not included in the findings.

As things stand every country in the United Kingdom has the same minimum wage rates. The current rates are shown below.

Rate from AprilRate (April 2021 to March 2022)Percentage increase
National Living Wage£9.50£8.916.6%
21-22 Year Old Rate£9.18£8.369.8%
18-20 Year Old Rate£6.83£6.564.1%
16-17 Year Old Rate£4.81£4.624.1%
Apprentice Rate£4.81£4.3011.9%
Accommodation Offset£8.70£8.364.1%

This shows that the minimum wage someone is entitled to is based on their age. This means that young employees on minimum wage receive a lower salary simply because they are younger. For example, a person that is aged 16-17 will receive £4.81 per hour compared to the top limit of £9.50 per hour.

It is also worth noting that although the national living wage is £9.50 the Scottish real living wage is calculated to be £9.90 per hour by Living Wage Scotland. This is the hourly rate that allows employees to have a decent standard of living. In 2024 the national living wage or national minimum wage is predicted to sit between £10.70 and £10.95 which should result in higher annual earnings for employees.

A report named the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2021, has discovered which areas have the highest hourly earnings. East Renfrewshire emerged as the area with the best hourly pay. Employees receive a median hourly pay of £20.87. Completing the top five were:

  • East Dunbartonshire
  • Renfrewshire
  • Edinburgh
  • South Lanarkshire

In contrast, the lowest hourly pay was found in Moray which was £11.83 per hour. This is likely because Moray is a very remote area and job opportunities are few and far between.

The ASHE report also showed that employees in the utility sector can expect to receive the highest pay in any Scottish industry. Hourly pay excluding overtime was £21.83 on average. This is perhaps unexpected as oil and renewable energy machinery are two of Scotland's highest-earning exports.

On the other end of the scale are workers in the service industry. Workers who serve food or work in the accommodation sector receive £8.91 on average. This pay is even lower than the highest minimum wage rate.

The report also separates employees into elementary and professional workers. Elementary (low-skilled) jobs provide employees with an hourly salary of £9.51 on average. Barely over the minimum wage. Professional employees (skilled or educated) receive an average hourly salary of £21.93.

Also, public sector employees receive a higher median hourly pay than the private sector in the UK. Employees that are employed in the public sector in Scotland also receive a higher salary than the national average. The rate is £17.57 in comparison to the UK average of £16.76.

The richest person is Danish-born Anders Holch Povlsen. He is one of 10 billionaires in the country in 2022. His personal wealth is £6.5 billion. He owns Danish fashion retailer Bestseller.

He is also the country's largest private land owner owning 220,000 acres. This includes 12 highland estates. Fortunately, the billionaire is committed to preserving and rewilding these highland estates. His other source of wealth comes from his 25% share in British fashion retailer Asos.

People in Scotland receive a higher average salary than the UK-wide figure. What may be surprising to some is that wages are higher on average in Scotland than in any other country in the UK. However, the pay in London is substantially higher.

Data from two separate sources using two separate metrics shows jobs in Scotland pay the most. Data from one report showed annual salaries were higher than the average salary of every other UK country. National statistics also showed the average hourly pay was higher. However, both metrics only included full-time employees.

It can be speculated that higher pay is the result of the education system. Citizens benefit from free higher education and financial support if they come from a poor background. This can account for some of the success. It has allowed financially disadvantaged young people to pursue higher education and study, and aim, at a high-paying career. If this was not in place they may not have been able to afford the high costs of tuition. Figures have also likely been accelerated due to certain occupations having seen a large increase in pay. For example, administrators saw a pay increase of nearly 10%.

Also, the UK-wide figure from both sources only included full-time employees. It did not include the 664,400 employees that work a part-time job. It also did not take into account the high number of people that receive benefits in the UK. The point being, the data may not provide a true reflection of the financial situation in Scotland or the UK.

The minimum wage in Scotland is the same as the national minimum wage. The lowest rate is £4.81 (apprentices/16-17-year-olds) and the highest rate for an employee that is 23 or over is £9.50. This shows that a young employee on minimum wage is financially restricted by their age. The highest rate is still lower than the suggested real living wage.

Data showed that full-time employees receive the highest pay in East Renfrewshire. The average median hourly pay in that region is £20.87. In contrast, the median salary in Moray was £11.83 per hour which was the lowest rate.

Along with region, pay also varied by industry. For example, the utility sector provided the best pay. Typical pay in this sector was £21.83 per hour. People in the service industry would receive a typical hourly pay of £8.91. This is lower than the top minimum wage rate.

Elementary workers typically received less pay (£9.51) than professional employees (£21.93). Also, public sector employees in the UK usually receive higher hourly rates than private-sector employees. In Scotland, public sector employees also earn higher hourly rates (£17.57) than in the UK as a whole.

The richest person in Scotland is Anders Holch Povlsen who owns vast areas of land in Scotland. He has a net worth of £6.5 billion and owns Bestseller, and has shares in Asos.