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Call to narrow the wealth gap as Scotland's rich get richer

ANTI-POVERTY campaigners last night raised fears of a growing divide between rich and poor after it emerged Scotland's most affluent men and women increased their wealth by almost 20% over the past year.

As millions struggle to pay bills The Sunday Times Rich List revealed the fortunes of Scotland's 100 super-rich rose by 19% to £25 billion, compared to 15.4% growth enjoyed by the UK's 1000 richest.

It also found the combined wealth of a record seven billionaires living in Scotland totalled £9.4bn, £2bn more than last year's six billionaires.

The Rich List figures were published just weeks after it was reported the number of Scots being referred by front-line services to food banks to feed their families increased by five times over the past 12 months to more than 70,000.

Rachael Orr, head of Oxfam's UK Poverty Programme, said last night: "We need our politicians to grasp the nettle and make narrowing the gap between the richest and poorest a top priority. It cannot be right that a small elite are getting richer and richer while hundreds of thousands rely on food banks to feed their families.

"There is money to help the poorest: we just need to ensure that the richest are not only asked to pay their fair share in tax but also that the loopholes that allow many to dodge their obligations are closed.

"Of course, genuine wealth creators deserve to be rewarded but the extreme inequality we see today is not just socially damaging, it's also bad for the economy."

Philip Beresford, who has compiled the Rich List since 1989, said: "The richest have had an astonishing year, and while some may criticise them, many of these people are at the heart of the economy and their success brings more jobs and more wealth."

He added: "I've never seen such a phenomenal rise in personal wealth as the growth in the fortunes of Britain's 1000 richest people over the past year."

Former Harrods owner Mohamed al Fayed was the highest new entrant at fourth place on the Scottish Rich List with a £1.3bn fortune. The 85-year-old recently sold Fulham football club and expects to spend more time on his Highland estate.

Other new entrants to the Rich List this year included Rick Smith, the head of PFD Foodservices, an Australian firm. Smith grew up in Dundee but left Scotland in 1959. He is worth £503m.

Duncan Bannatyne, 65, the Clydebank-born Dragons' Den star, was ranked equal 30th with a £175m fortune. Bannatyne started with an ice-cream van and moved into property, nursing homes and a nursery chain. His Darlington-based Bannatyne Group, including health clubs and hotels, made £12m profit in 2013.

The Grant-Gordon whisky family displaced Mahdi al-Tajir, the Highland Spring tycoon, at the top of the Scottish list, with a £1.9bn fortune. In third place was entrepreneur Sir Ian Wood and family with £1.32bn.

Overall, Britain's wealthiest people have a combined fortune of £519bn - equivalent to a third of the UK's annual Gross Domestic Product or GDP. This year's total dwarfs the £413bn the top 1000 recorded before the 2008 financial crash.

Women were still the poor relations in the list, with 114 in the top 1000, down from 118 last year. Many of the women have inherited money, but author JK Rowling (£570m) and transport tycoon Ann Gloag (£1bn) are among those who have built vast fortunes in their own right or with family members.

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