Universal basic income: an idea whose time has come?

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‚ÄčScotland should pilot basic income trials, GCVS meeting is told

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31st August 2017 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

A universal basic income (UBI) is an idea whose time has come, a major third sector event was told.

Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector (GCVS) and the Royal Society For The Encouragement Of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) held a debate which heard calls for pilot schemes to be set up in Scotland which would show how the concept would work in practice.

UBI is a tax-exempt, unconditional income source given to every citizen by the government, trials of which are underway in Finland, the Netherlands and Canada.

Speaking at the GCVS and RSA event were Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie and Annie Miller from the Citizens Basic Income Network in Scotland, who launched her book, A Basic Income Handbook.

Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said UBI is a longstanding Green policy which, when coupled with progressive taxation, aims to cut poverty and support people with part-time jobs or caring responsibilities.

He said: “Interest is growing, with a Citizen’s Basic Income Network in Scotland and pilot projects proposed in Glasgow, Fife and in Edinburgh.

“The need for such bold policies is urgent. What was called social security has been twisted over the years by successive UK governments into a system that bullies people and traps them in poverty, even when they are working. A basic income would give people stability to look for work and balance that with any caring responsibilities.”

Also speaking at the meeeting was Labour Party councillor Matt Kerr, a long-term advocate of UBI.

He said: “The universal basic income is about the relationship between state and individual.

“I’ve always believed that socialism is about giving people freedom from fear, but the right have distorted the word to suit their agenda.

“If you’re free from worrying about having a roof over your head and feeding your children, you can be free to take some risks and manage your own life. You can have the ability to take part in your community and volunteer without the risk of sanctions.

“At its core is a message from the state to the individual, saying ‘we actually give a damn about you and we’ll treat you with respect.”

Allan Young, Green councillor for Govan, also attended the meeting. He said afterwards: “With high levels of poverty and inequality, it’s clear that current economic policies are failing many in Glasgow. We need fresh thinking, and ideas which put power into people’s hands. Ideas such as a Universal Basic Income, which we have long called for.

“A universal basic income could provide Glaswegians with the stability to pursue further education, care for loved ones and say to no to exploitative zero hour contracts. We are calling for Glasgow City Council, possibly in partnership with other councils, to establish a cross-party working group on UBI and trial a pilot scheme for the city.”  

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