Universal basic income trials considered in Glasgow


Credit: Ron Mader

Credit: Ron Mader

Katy Scott
News Editor

Glasgow and Fife councils are both considering a universal basic income (UBI) scheme for every citizen, regardless of their employment status.

The two Labour-run councils are currently in the process of investigating the design of initial trials set to be carried out later this year.

The scheme, in which social security benefits will be replaced with an unconditional fixed payment, follows discussions held by both councils late last year.

Glasgow City Councillor Matt Kerr is a frontline supporter of the initiative, stating: “Like a lot of people, I was interested in the idea but never completely convinced.

“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 Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in Scotland has previously carried out research into the basic income scheme. The Head of RSA Scotland, Jamie Cooke, attended a meeting with Fife Council concerning the proposal, stating afterwards: “This is a significant step forward for basic income in Scotland, giving a very realistic chance of a pilot taking place in Scotland within the next couple of years.”

Before the scheme is introduced, the councils will first arrange a viability study for the pilot, as well as decide the quantity of the fixed payment and how the scheme will be paid for.

On funding, Mr Cooke commented: “It could be funding from particular trusts, it could be individual philanthropic funding, or it could be a redirection of the existing welfare state spend.”

The Glasgow University Labour Club said: “The Labour Club is a bit divided over whether Universal Basic Income should be national policy. But we don’t disagree on the intent. Not only have wages fallen, but workers are now being faced with the dire prospect of being replaced by robots. The benefits system is cruel and inhumane, and definitely not fit for purpose. Cllr Kerr’s proposal is bold and we certainly back this experiment. “

The initiative has cross-party support in Scotland from both the incumbent SNP government and Scottish Labour. A recent poll in the UK found two-thirds of respondents supported the idea.

Universal basic income schemes are growing in popularity across Europe, with a pilot currently running in the Netherlands and another set to launch in Finland this year.