Scotland on the basic income frontline

Universal basic income cropped  wide

‚ÄčThe idea of basic income is gaining traction - Gail Irvine explores where we are

TFN Guest's photo

11th February 2019 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

Basic income - the concept of regular, unconditional payments for citizens - is enjoying an upsurge in interest from around the globe.

Scotland is at the forefront of countries giving serious consideration to whether basic income is a viable means of tackling poverty, with the local authorities of Fife, Edinburgh, Glasgow and North Ayrshire working together on a two-year basic income pilot feasibility study.

At the Carnegie UK Trust, supporting new ideas and ways of working which can improve improving wellbeing is at the heart of what we do.

It is a pleasure to be able to support policy innovation taking place on our doorstop by drawing on international examples, as in our new report: Exploring the Practicalities of a Basic Income Pilot: insights from around the globe.

Gail Irvine

Gail Irvine

Despite being much talked about, basic income has rarely been piloted

Like the Carnegie UK Trust, the local authorities believe piloting basic income is key to understanding its potential positive and negative effects.

Basic income has the potential to deliver a range of benefits – from removing poverty traps, to cutting down welfare bureaucracy, to providing a greater sense of freedom to citizens to choose to work, volunteer or care.

However, the fact is that basic income has not been tried in any developed country which could serve as a comparator for Scotland.

To move Scotland to a stage where basic income could realistically be piloted, we should learn the lessons from basic income pilots that have taken place in other countries around the world. This is why we have worked with the local authorities to highlight this learning in our new report.  

What does the report say?

Despite being much talked about, basic income has rarely been piloted. At least, a full basic income (eg a payment which is regular, unconditional, individual, non-withdrawable and universal) has rarely been piloted.

The case studies in our report highlight major differences in pilots which have taken place in Finland, Ontario and the Netherlands, including the level basic income has been set at and the groups and communities it has been piloted with, incorporating pragmatic reflections on the particular challenges and decisions have shaped these differences.

It concludes that there is no one size fits all approach to piloting basic income. The challenge to Scotland is to learn from these case studies to design a pilot that can feasibly be taken forward by political decision makers and generate much needed evidence of how basic income might impact on people and communities. 

Scotland is taking all the right steps to reach this point. The report asks a series of questions around pilot framing, design, implementation, evaluation and communication which need to find responses within Scotland’s specific political context, if a pilot is to run.

Moreover, our report is only one component of the Scottish-Government funded feasibility study that is being undertaken by the four local authorities.

Keep up to date with the progress in Scotland by visiting here.

Gail Irvine is senior policy and development officer at Carnegie UK Trust.