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Scottish Independence and Scotland's Future
Scottish Innovation Party (SIP) Universal Basic Income

Universal Basic Income is a payment made to every eligible adult and child. It is not dependent on income and so is not means-tested. It is a basic platform on which people can build their lives – whether they want to earn, learn, care or set up a business.

It sounds like a Utopian dream but there are increasing signs that support for the idea is growing across the developed world. The RSA has developed a new model of Basic Income and this report argues that a Basic Income for the UK – and elsewhere - would be feasible, desirable and beneficial.

Why we should give everyone a basic income

Automate Now? Robots, Jobs and Universal Basic Income A Public Debate

For and against Basic Income

Why we should give everyone a basic income
This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Rutger Bregman (1988) studied at Utrecht University and the University of California in Los Angeles, majoring in History. In September 2013 Bregman joined the online journalism platform De Correspondent. His article on basic income was nominated for the European Press Prize and was published by The Washington Post.

Universal basic income is not a magic solution, but it could help millions
By Anthony Painter in the Guardian Newspaper

The current system of welfare and employment simply isn’t working. Scotland, Canada and the Netherlands are right to explore this misunderstood option.

Universal basic income is the idea that just won’t go away. At heart, it’s a very simple concept – every individual citizen should receive a regular payment on an unconditional basis. However, the actual structure and design varies considerably. Nonetheless, what has become clear in the last year or so is that there is growing desire across the globe, including in the UK, to explore, debate, test, design, and build support for a universal basic income.

Why now? There are a number of factors. Labour markets and systems of tax and social support have been through enormous change in the last quarter of a century. Some of these changes helped people into work and provided targeted financial support to individuals and families. But there is growing concern that we have seen the emergence of a “precariat” – insecure, often in poverty despite being in work, facing relentlessly complex life choices, a complexity reinforced by the operation of the welfare state. Inequality, precariousness, insecurity – lack of control over one’s life – are challenges that recent reforms have done too little to address.

Basic income is designed to give people more control over their lives. It is not just the cash sum that is important but the security and certainty provided; a more predictable platform on which to make life choices. Should some of the fears over the rapid impact of new forms of automation driven by artificial intelligence and robotics come to pass, then this certainty will become even more crucial as people strive to adapt.

Will people be lazy if given a basic income? One might say this is a fundamentally, and worryingly, negative view of humanity. Notwithstanding that, models of basic income systems such as that outlined by the organisaton I work for – the RSA – do not offer a level of income which would remove the necessity of work, but rather one which would address some of the issues of insecurity. This basic level would allow for greater work choices for individuals than the current system offers, with a chance to move away from dehumanising short-term roles. The current welfare bureaucracy offers little such choice, instead forcing people into insecure work where they face effective tax rates approaching 80%.

Isn’t it expensive? A workable system of basic income could cost up to 1% of GDP (a number of proposed schemes are significantly less). This is comparable in scope to decisions made by UK governments in the past 20 years to increase pensions, tax credits, raise the personal allowance threshold, reduce corporation taxes and so on. Some critics have resorted to all sorts of caricatures of the policy. The oldest trick in the book is to set a basic income at an unrealistically high level and then claim it’s too expensive (one recently set it at an effective rate of almost £35,000 for a family of four which, yes, would be expensive).

Then there are claims that it would harm the disabled or deprive people of housing or childcare. But basic income replaces part, not all, of the welfare state. That is because it is not welfare, it is an income. When you receive an income, you don’t require the same level of support. So additional needs would still be met. There have been claims that basic income is too administratively complex. More complex than the current tax and tax credits system? That seems highly unlikely. And why should the rich receive the same as the poor? Well, they can be taxed more under a basic income system to take account of that.

Basic income is not a magic solution. Its advocates do not have all the answers. Nor can they have them without further discussion, refinement, and experimentation. This is why provinces in Canada, the government of Finland, a group of Dutch cities, a development charity, and Glasgow city and Fife councils are seeking to explore aspects of a basic income system in practice. Governments in London and Edinburgh should consider what a UK basic income pilot would look like and how it could be supported.

The tragedy for those who believe in progressive change would be if this debate was stifled. If we as a society are serious about creating a greater level of security and dignity for all then this debate needs to be widened rather than curtailed. If we can’t discuss sensibly some of the most significant economic and social changes taking place then what is left of progressive politics? Universal basic income opens out this essential discussion. Let’s expand the conversation – and the experimentation – rather than shutting it down.

Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland

Many years ago I suggested that we should look at such a system without knowing anything about a Universal Basic Income.

At the time I suggested that we needed to look at what everyone should be entitled to and that was...

Accommodation sufficient to the person or family that was heated or cooled with fridge, microwave and cooker.
A TV and Computer (with Internet access) for every home
Sufficient funds to feed them on a healthy diet
A means of transport tp get them to the shops or work.
Sufficient funds to clothe them
And a small sum to enable them to have a little luxury like being able to purchase a present for Christmas.

This would be available for every person no matter what their income was.

I then felt that after this basic income all would pay tax on a gradual basis so that the more they earned the more tax they would pay.

I then suggested that we should look at mega corporations and ensure they all paid tax on their profits no matter what country they were in. It seemed to me that there are many corporate's making obscene amounts of money that were getting away with paying very little tax. I thus called for simple rules on taxation that completely eliminated tax loop holes.

I figured this would mean billions of savings from administering the current complex system of social security and welfare. I envisaged that the welfare system could be completely eliminated.

And finally I called for everyone to be employed in that if you couldn't find work then you would be asked to do public service. That could be visiting elderly neighbours to check they were ok. It could be cleaning the area in your community.  The work you would be asked to do would fit with your skill sets so an admin worker would not normally be asked to do manual labour and visa versa.

The one problem I could see was on accommodation.  I mean that if you live in Edinburgh or London you would be paying much higher rents.  So how you get around that I'm not sure. 

Also many private landlords do a very poor job about ensuring your accommodation is a fit place to live.  I thus saw problems in this area and called for more public housing to be made available and also clear legislation on standards for private rental. 

I also noted that in the drive to improve dividends that often meant people were laid off.  I thought there should be an incentive for large companies to retain workers.  It might be sufficient to put a cap on profits so that if you reach a certain figure you must re-invest the balance into your company or donate it to worthwhile causes.

Clearly there are practical issues to be worked out but I thought this would work if we put our minds to it.

I was also keen to try and get rid of professional politicians in that MSP's and MP's could only serve for a 10 year period.  I was also keen to eliminate political parties so that all politicians were elected to represent their constituency.  When they didn't do a good job then there would be some mechanism to call a by election.

The Buchanan Institute
A Secure Foundation to Build Our Lives: Making the Case for a Universal Basic Income (UBI)

Kevin McKenna, “The Scottish pioneer whose plan for a basic income could transform Britain”
Kerr charges that the UK’s social benefit system is no longer adequate, and believes that it is important to consider radical change as a way to give people hope.

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