Evolution of the welfare state in Scotland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Justifiably or not, Scotland has acquired a reputation for being a more caring society. Throughout its history, this myth states, Scotland has always taken care of the least fortunate members of the lower classes. The emergence of the welfare state in the 1940s and the Scottish Parliament in 1999 are sometimes seen as continuing deep Scottish traditions of care and welfare. Yet despite some continuities with the past, in the most fundamental ways the setting up of the welfare state in the 1940s marked a radical improvement to what had gone before.

While you may be drawn to particular chapters in this book that are more directly relevant to your own specialised area of practice-based training or study, it is essential that you can place your own interests in the wider historical context of how we collectively arrived at this stage of welfare provision. In other words, history matters to all students of social welfare and care.

This chapter advances the idea that an historical perspective on the system of welfare and care in Scotland gives us some sense of why the bureaucratic, cumbersome, creaking welfare state has survived these past sixty years or so. What went before depended not on care and welfare as a right of being a British citizen. Instead, a confused parochial mess of middle class charity and mean-minded local parishes, also controlled by middle class ratepayers, saw the condition of poor working class people as a personal and moral failing on part of the individual. An historical approach, therefore, provides a crucial context for understanding the continuing popularity of the idea that the state should fund and provide care and welfare support, delivered in an equitable way by qualified specialists across the board.

This chapter therefore:

•Sets out the main changes in social care and welfare over the past century.
•Yet despite many changes there are also strong continuities in the provision of care and welfare services, some going back to at least the nineteenth century.
•One of these continuities has been the persistence of deep social divisions in Scotland which welfare provision has been unable to alter fundamentally.
•Another is a view of the poor and the disadvantaged as a problem to be controlled by welfare institutions.
•In the second part of the twentieth century the state became the main welfare and care institution but other non-state organisations have also been historically involved in welfare functions
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial care, health and welfare in contemporary Scotland
EditorsGerry Mooney, Tony Sweeney, Alex Law
Place of PublicationPaisely
PublisherKynoch & Blaney
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9780955397301
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2006


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