SCOTLAND is in a position to lead a global effort to help tackle inequality with economic success being based on improving wellbeing instead of an obsession with economic growth, according to a new analysis.

The remarks from Glasgow-based global inequality expert, Dr Katherine Trebeck, came as a report from Oxfam said the 3.8 billion people representing the poorest half of the world saw their wealth decline by 11% last year as billionaires’ fortunes rose by 12% – or $2.5 billion a day.

It said the world’s 26 richest people now held the same wealth as the poorest half of the global population, down from 43 in 2017.

The Public Good or Private Wealth? report said the wealth of the world’s billionaires increased by $900bn (£700bn) in 2018, while 3.4bn people survived on less than $5.50 (£4.27) per day.

Oxfam called for governments to fund better public services and reform tax policy, including tackling tax dodging, to bridge the widening equality gap.

Among its key recommendations were delivery of universal free healthcare, an end to “under-taxation” and more policies to support women and end gender discrimination.

It said forcing the wealthiest 1% to pay an extra 0.5% tax would raise an estimated $418nn (£324.6bn) per year to achieve the aims.

Jamie Livingstone, who heads Oxfam in Scotland, commented: “While billionaires, business and political elites rub shoulders at the annual festival of wealth in Davos, we know change at national level is absolutely critical.

“Inequality continues to deepen in Scotland while one million people remain in poverty – that can’t continue.

“We have a chance to do things differently here but only if our policy makers have the courage to pursue bold policies which put people and planet first.”

In Scotland, he said small steps had been taken to make tax fairer, to ensure work is a better route out of poverty and to enhance social protection, but it was hoped the Poverty and Inequality Commission will inspire further action.

Next week, Trebeck and co-author Jeremy Williams will launch a new book, The Economics of Arrival: ideas for a grown up economy, which reimagines what global economic progress could mean if it was not focused on growth.

They highlight the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) initiative, launched by the Scottish Government alongside those of Iceland and New Zealand, as a sign of Scotland’s commitment to progress. This will see governments exchange policy ideas to promote economies based on shared wellbeing on a healthy planet.

Trebeck told The National: “Scotland is a wealthy country, it has plenty of natural resources, lots and lots of wealth, high GDP per capita … what we’re not so good at is sharing those resources well and that’s the opportunity.”

“WEGo is still quite small but it’s something I think we can fan the flames of and make quite powerful.

“Essentially it’s a group of governments saying that they understand, in the 21st century, progress is about more than GDP and they don’t have all the answers but they’re willing to have a go in different directions and learn from each other.”