THE UK Government’s economic policies are “likely” to have caused a “great many more deaths” than the Covid-19 pandemic, an academic has found.

Researchers said the “not only shocking but shameful” statistics showed that almost 335,000 more deaths than expected were recorded across Scotland, England and Wales over an eight-year period.

Experts at Glasgow University and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) examined data on deaths in the three countries over the period 2012 to 2019.

Commenting on the findings, Ruth Dundas, a professor of social epidemiology at the University of Glasgow and one of the authors of the report, said: “This study shows that in the UK a great many more deaths are likely to have been caused by UK Government economic policy than by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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Her comments came as the report said there was now a “clear and urgent need ... for such harmful policies to be reversed”, with the authors urging the UK Government to “implement measures to protect the most vulnerable in society”.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, noted there were 334,327 excess deaths over the expected number in England, Wales and Scotland over the period. This included 237,855 excess deaths among males in England and Wales, with a further 12,735 excess deaths recorded among men in Scotland.

Among women, there were 77,173 excess deaths in England and Wales, and 6564 in Scotland. The research was carried out amid “a stalling of improvement overall” in mortality rates, with increasing death rates among the poorest having been observed across the UK since the early 2010s.

Statistical analysis showed previously improving mortality trends had changed around the period 2011-13 in both Scotland and England, with this occurring following the Tories’ election victory in 2010.

The study found that among females living in the 20% most deprived areas of England, death rates increased by about 3% between 2010-12 and 2017-19, after having declined by around 14% in the previous decade.

In Scotland, among the 20% most deprived population, rates of premature death increased by 6-7% among males and females, with this coming after previous decreases of 10-20%.

Speaking about the research, Dr David Walsh, the paper’s lead author of the paper and public health programme manager at the GCPH, said: “These figures are not only shocking but shameful.”

He added: “We must remember that these are more than just statistics: they represent hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been cut short, and hundreds of thousands of families who have had to deal with the grief and aftermath of those deaths. The tragic thing is these deaths did not have to happen. In the words of the United Nations, in a society as wealthy as the UK, ‘poverty is a political choice’.

“The UK Government needs to understand the damaging impact of austerity and respond with policies that put us back on the path of improving, not worsening, life expectancy for all.”

Report co-author Gerry McCartney, professor of wellbeing economy at the University of Glasgow, said: “As the UK Government debates current and future economic direction, it needs to understand, and learn from, the devastating effects that cuts to social security and vital services have had on the health of the population across the whole of the UK.”

He also urged the Scottish Government to do everything it can within its devolved powers to mitigate the effects of these UK Government policies and help protect people from the “disastrous consequences”.

Dundas said: “We need to reverse the austerity policies and protect the income, and therefore the health, of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”

The SNP’s Scotland spokesperson, Mhairi Black MP, urged the Prime Minister to recall parliament. She has also called on Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross to stand up for Scotland by denouncing the recent Tory mini-Budget and calling on the UK Government to stand by its promise to uprate benefits in line with inflation.

Black said: “The human cost of Scotland remaining under Westminster control and the Tories’ cruel austerity agenda has been laid bare in this report.

“The fact almost 335,000 deaths – almost 20,000 in Scotland – are likely to have been caused by UK Government policies should serve as a wake-up call to the UK Government and shame every single Tory to their core, including Douglas Ross and the rest of the Scottish Tories.The UK Government had the opportunity to change course in its recent mini-Budget by scrapping debt-inducing policies and bringing in meaningful, targeted support to help low and middle-income families get through the cost-of-living crisis.

"Instead, it chose to confirm Tory austerity 2.0 with more cuts that will threaten our vital NHS and public services, scrap the cap on bankers bonuses and, before u-turning, cut tax for the wealthiest.

“It is time for the Scottish Conservative Party to stand up for people in Scotland and help to save lives across the country by denouncing the Tory austerity agenda and calling on their boss to uprate benefits as promised, so people aren’t left cold or hungry.

“Scotland hasn’t voted for a Tory government in almost 60 years, yet we have had cruel Tory policy after cruel Tory policy imposed on us.”and now we see those same policies are likely causing excess deaths here. It is truly heartbreaking - but we can have a brighter, safer future with independence, which would give us all the powers needed to ensure people weren’t left to go cold and hungry.”