PLANS by the SNP to examine proposals for a universal basic income (UBI) in an independent Scotland have been welcomed.
The move is being examined by the party’s Social Justice and Fairness Commission, set up last year to build the case for independence by looking at ways to tackle poverty and inequality.
Chaired by former health secretary Shona Robison, it was established to complement work by the party’s Growth Commission to update the economic case for independence.
Writing in The National yesterday, Robison and the commission’s vice-convener Neil Gray compared the ambition for their work with The Beveridge Report, the 1942 document which helped to establish the NHS and welfare state in the post-war years.
Jamie Cooke, director of the Royal Society of Arts and Manufacturing (RSA) in Scotland, which has been campaigning for a citizens’ income, backed the development.
“In this time of crisis, the fault lines and failings of our economic and social systems have been harshly thrust into the light,” he said.
“Whilst keeping people safe is rightly our immediate priority, we also have the chance to build back better, and to reset the social contract that has been frayed over recent years.
“It has been incredibly positive to see the surge in interest in basic income across the political spectrum – and therefore very welcome that the Social Justice Commission is also considering the policy as the foundation to a new model for Scotland.”
He added: “As research and experiments have shown, basic income can help us to create a society where our residents do not just survive, but thrive – one in which destitution can be countered, economic security can be increased, physical and mental wellbeing improved and all activity, whether creativity, paid employment or caring, can be valued.”
UBI guarantees every citizen a payment from the Government and the policy has been met with increased public support since the outbreak of coronavirus.
The Scottish Government has funded schemes to examine pilots in four local authorities – Fife, Edinburgh, Glasgow and North Ayrshire, but have limited powers to introduce the policy in Scotland currently as some key income tax and welfare powers are reserved.
Think tank Reform Scotland also supports the policy and published a briefing suggesting a basic income level of £5200 a year for every adult.
The pressure on the UK Government to introduce a form of UBI has increased, with more than 170 MPs and peers writing to Chancellor Rishi Sunak in March to urge him to consider such a move.
The UK Government has pushed back against the idea of a UBI, with Sunak saying existing welfare systems are sufficient.