Reform Scotland, the independent non-party think tank, has welcomed the Scottish Government’s move to evaluate the benefit of introducing a system where every citizen is entitled to a basic or minimum income, and has issued a new briefing which sets out a suggested basic income level of £5,200 for every adult.
The proposal to introduce a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) would replace the current work-related benefits system. Reform Scotland argues that there remains a lingering disincentive to work (the ‘welfare trap’) caused by high levels of marginal tax faced by those moving back into work or increasing their hours. The think tank makes the case for the work-related benefits system acting as a ‘safety net’ to provide financial security for those out of work, and a ‘safety trampoline’ to encourage more people to rejoin the workforce or set up new businesses.
The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government – set out in September – committed the administration to formally assessing the potential for introducing such a scheme in Scotland. The Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, Angela Constance MSP, has written to all Local Authorities which have expressed an interest in pilots to explore Basic Income informing them that the Scottish Government has established a £250 000 fund for feasibility studies. Fife, Glasgow and North Ayrshire Councils can now bid for funds to explore how pilots would work, and how much they would cost, with this preparatory work taking place between April 2018 and March 2020.
The briefing provides further evidence of the workability of the suggestion, building on the previous report issued by Reform Scotland in 2016, which was jointly authored for the think tank by former Scottish Liberal Democrat Policy Convener Siobhan Mathers and former Scottish Green Party Head of Media James Mackenzie.