Scottish basic income pilot gains support with launch of national conversation project

Scottish Housing News – 9th March 2020

A conversation project which aims to kick-start a national movement towards a UK Basic Income launched this past weekend.

A Basic Income would see a regular cash payment given to every citizen without conditions, regardless of their income, wealth or employment status.

This last weekend the Basic Income Conversation hosted a summit for the leading voices on Basic Income. The group is fully in favour of the implementation of a Basic Income in the UK and support pilots as the first step towards this.

At the event, the group prioritised the geographic areas, civil society groups and influential individuals to be engaged during the first phase of the Basic Income Conversation project.

Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam, was in attendance and said: “With increasing interest in Universal Basic Income, and a growing number of municipalities keen to pilot, the launch of the national Basic Income Conversation campaign in Sheffield is both fantastic and timely and will only serve to heighten interest around the idea.”

Several cities have nominated themselves as potential sites for an English Basic Income pilot, including Sheffield, Liverpool and Hull.

But Scotland is leading the exploration of a pilot in the UK. In 2018 the Scottish Government invested £250,000 in a research project looking at the feasibility of a full Basic Income pilot.

If a Scottish experiment goes ahead, Basic Income would go from utopian dream to the lived reality of thousands of citizens living in pilot areas in the next few years.

Ronnie Cowan, MP for Inverclyde, added: “Pilot projects have a big role to play in educating us all about the pros and cons. The Scottish Basic Income feasibility study group are due to report their recommendations in June this year and Glasgow is hosting the Basic Income Earth Network Congress in 2021. Hopefully, this will lead to progressive legislation based on facts. The more informed the general public are, then the higher the quality of debate around Basic Income will be.”

The Basic Income Conversation brought the public voice into the design and piloting of this transformational policy.

The project will capture the common challenges posed by financial insecurity and will present Basic Income to people across the UK as a possible solution.

Cleo Goodman, co-founder of the Basic Income Conversation, said: “For a Basic Income to reach its full potential it has to suit the needs of everyone that receives it. If anyone is worse off with a Basic Income then it has failed. We will be working with key groups including disabled people, unpaid carers and women to make sure their needs are addressed.”

The Basic Income Conversation is backed by the think tank Compass.

Neal Lawson, director of Compass, added: “There are no silver policy bullets – Basic Income isn’t the answer to everything but it’s the best way into a conversation about what sort of good life and good society we want. A Basic Income can act as a springboard and a safety net, providing security and opportunity in changing times.”

Basic Income has recently moved into the political mainstream, enjoying cross-party support. With Labour, the SNP, Liberal Democrats and the Green Parties all favouring the exploration or implementation of the idea.

Michael Pugh, co-founder and director of the Basic Income Conversation, said: “The political support for Basic Income is growing and we’re continuing to build this cross-party coalition. We are also creating a network of researchers, academics and think tanks who are exploring Basic Income to create a robust body of evidence.”

A full Basic Income programme has never been delivered. Evidence for a Basic Income comes from short term experiments and low level unconditional cash payments.

Existing evidence indicates many positive outcomes. Author of the report on Basic Income evidence published in the Lancet Public Health journal last week Dr Marcia Gibson, commented: “The evidence on the health impact is mixed, with some strong positive effects on birthweight, infant obesity, nutrition, and mental health.

“More evidence is needed to understand the wider health, economic, and social implications of basic income.”

Public and political support for a Basic Income continues to increase, and the first pilot in the UK could be confirmed this year. The Basic Income Conversation project will facilitate a dialogue between decision makers, researchers and the public.