Universal basic income trials in Scotland
Comment: I am not convinced of this.
We had a debate in France back in the 1980s on the idea, promoted by amongst others, the journalist and theorist André Gorz.
Carried on the by New Economics Foundation in the UK.
We then posed some simple arguments against it:
- If universal basic income is available to all then why restrict it to nationals of one country?
- How exactly will it cover things like the rent, electricity bills and the gas charges?
- Will it actually pay the bills?
Labour’s key economist, the ‘sovereigntist’ economist and pro-Brexit James Meadway (former chief economist at the New Economics Foundation) comes from this Basic Income supporting background.
Anyway this is the story:
Two councils, Fife and Glasgow, are investigating idea of offering everyone a fixed income regardless of earnings.
Scotland looks set to be the first part of the UK to pilot a basic income for every citizen, as councils in Fife and Glasgow investigate trial schemes in 2017.
The councillor Matt Kerr has been championing the idea through the ornate halls of Glasgow City Chambers, and is frank about the challenges it poses.
“Like a lot of people, I was interested in the idea but never completely convinced,” he said. But working as Labour’s anti-poverty lead on the council, Kerr says that he “kept coming back to the basic income”.
Kerr sees the basic income as a way of simplifying the UK’s byzantine welfare system. “But it is also about solidarity: it says that everyone is valued and the government will support you. It changes the relationship between the individual and the state.”
The concept of a universal basic income revolves around the idea of offering every individual, regardless of existing welfare benefits or earned income, a non-conditional flat-rate payment, with any income earned above that taxed progressively. The intention is to provide a basic economic platform on which people can build their lives, whether they choose to earn, learn, care or set up a business.
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has suggested that it is likely to appear in his party’s next manifesto, while there has been a groundswell of interest among anti-poverty groups who see it as a means of changing not only the relationship between people and the state, but between workers and increasingly insecure employment in the gig economy.
Scotland was recently added to the list of “places to watch” for basic income activity by the Basic Income Earth Network, founded by the radical economist Guy Standing, whose hugely influential book The Precariat identified an emerging social class suffering the worst of job insecurity and most likely to be attracted to rightwing populism.