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UBI which has been backed by Nicola Sturgeon would see every citizen provided with guaranteed payments no matter what their circumstances are. A research paper by the Scottish Social Justice & Fairness Commission titled “A Secure Income for All” explored the principle of providing a secure minimum income.
The report suggested a number of methods as to how UBI could work in Scotland which included a basic income of £2,400 per person per annum that sits alongside Universal Credit which people would still be able to claim.
As well as this, it was also suggested that UBI should replace the current system of Universal Credit completely but retain other benefits including disability benefit, housing benefit, childcare support and incapacity benefit giving adults £4,800 a year.
A third model suggested an initial basic income funded through the existing tax and benefits system which would require an additional tax rise of £28bn for the UK.
A final model also suggests creating long-term funding for a basic income scheme through the creation of a citizen’s wealth fund which could be funded through a combination of long-term borrowing and allocating some existing revenue-generating public sector assets.
This would allow adults to be paid up to £80 a week regardless of their income and £180 for adults aged 65+ and for children £50 a week.
This means that couples under 65 would receive an annual payment of £6,240 whilst families of four (2 adults, 2 children) would receive £13,520 per year.
The final two models, the SNP said, could also apply to the rest of the UK.
The Commission report, added: “Universal Basic Income (UBI) is currently being hotly debated in political and policy circles, both as a short term recovery measure as we come through the pandemic and also as a long term option.
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“Its appeal is not surprising. On the surface, it is a simple way of delivering a safety net income.
“It is also instinctively attractive to many of us who believe in social justice, as a means of creating a more equal society.”
Alison Johnstone MSP, Scottish Greens social security spokesperson, told Express.co.uk: “It would have a potentially hugely positive impact on health, wellbeing, poverty and inequality at a time when inequalities are being exposed by the current public health crisis.
“As the world looks for ways to build back better from this global crisis, Scotland is well placed to take a world-leading role in developing new radical approaches that provide a real safety net for the most vulnerable people in society.
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“A Universal Basic Income is an idea which has entered the political mainstream, and I look forward to cross-party support for this proposed pilot. It’s an idea whose time has come.”
SNP MP Neil Gray who sits on the Commission, added to this website: “We have put particular focus on Universal Basic Income as that is one of the most radical and challenging options being debated.
“When considering transformational change, it’s important that it is grounded in a wide-ranging discussion and consensus and that’s why we want to undertake early consultation on this issue.”
Nicola Sturgeon also produced a paper which suggested that UBI could be co-delivered in a three-year pilot by the Scottish and UK Governments alongside local authorities.
Councils in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife and North Ayrshire worked on the research for two years with NHS Health Scotland, now part of Public Health Scotland, and the Improvement Service, which supports local authorities.
The Scottish government provided £250,000 for the project and have said that a three-year pilot will provide a better understanding of how an income could impact on poverty, unemployment, health and financial wellbeing.
However, the Commission warned that they “must interrogate the various “challenges and potential consequences of introducing UBI in an independent Scotland.”
One of those challenges is the fact that Holyrood does not have the powers to introduce a universal basic income on its own because the majority of welfare and tax responsibilities are still reserved to Westminster.
The Scottish Conservatives in one of the pilot proposals areas in Fife said that the plans would be “unworkable” and have questioned the £186m cost.
They stressed that is was going to cost “£186m in a post-COVID environment” stressing that “unless we can identify a realistic option of paying for it, presumably through taxation, the level of finance needed… if you scale it up to Scotland, the numbers are eye-watering.”
The group added: “If we as politicians can’t see a way of affording the costs then we are disingenuous at the very best to be taking a pilot forward.”
Benny Higgins, Nicola Sturgeon’s chief economist who helped to produce a recent report on how the Scottish economy should recover from COVID-19, said the scheme would be an “expensive distraction”.
He added to Express.co.uk: “My personal conclusion at the moment is that we’ve really got to use all of our resources to get people back to work, rather than support them out of work.
“I think, therefore, this isn’t the time to prioritise a universal basic income. I’d rather we use all of our resources to get Scotland back to work.”
But Chancellor Rishi Sunak also told MPs that the UK government was “not in favour of a universal basic income”, and had “strengthened the safety net for the most vulnerable” by investing in the existing welfare system.
The Commission Report concluded: “An examination of mechanisms, in principle and practice, to deliver a secure income for all is a crucial part of the Commission’s work in developing proposals for an independent Scotland.
“Ensuring that no one has to live in poverty and has the dignity of a secure income is one of the key pillars of a fair society with wellbeing at its heart.
“It’s one of a number of core issues we are considering.”
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