Scottish public sector partners report on feasibility of basic income pilot

Partners involved in exploring the feasibility of a Citizens Basic Income (CBI) pilot in Scotland have concluded that a CBI pilot is desirable but involves “significant challenges”.

Scottish public sector partners report on feasibility of basic income pilot

Over the past two years, Fife, North Ayrshire, City of Edinburgh and Glasgow City councils have worked together with NHS Health Scotland and the Improvement Service to explore the feasibility of a Scottish CBI pilot. The concept is based on offering every individual, regardless of existing welfare benefits or earned income, an unconditional, regular payment. 

As well as the resources provided by the partners involved, the Scottish Government provided £250,000 to support the feasibility work in Scotland. Led by the Citizens’ Basic Income Feasibility Study Steering Group, partners have now developed a proposed model for a CBI pilot which would aim to understand the impact of CBI on poverty, child poverty and unemployment, as well as health and financial wellbeing, and experience of the social security system.

Now, the draft final report is being released as the four councils involved, prepare to go through the formal democratic process to discuss and debate the findings, before formally passing to the Scottish Government at the end of the month.

Paul Vaughan, head of communities and neighbourhoods at Fife Council and member of the Steering Group, explained the background to the report’s publication: “This report presents research into the feasibility of a CBI pilot in Scotland. Developed by a collaboration of local government and public health, supported by Scottish Government, it comes at a time of unprecedented socioeconomic challenges. Given the stubborn persistence of unacceptable  levels of poverty and inequality in our society, it’s important that we consider innovative solutions.

“We are clear that a pilot of basic income is desirable, and we have described how and what would need to be done for this to happen. However, we also recognise that, at this time, it’s not currently feasible to progress to a pilot due to the very complex legislative, technical and delivery challenges associated with the institutional arrangements needed for a pilot.  If these barriers are to be overcome, sustained support across all levels of government (local, Scottish and UK) for the duration of the pilot and evaluation will be needed.”

The Steering Group commissioned two significant pieces of research over the course of the study.

The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland researched the potential interactions between a CBI pilot and the current social security arrangements. This work explored how a pilot study of CBI could impact on eligibility for other welfare benefits and associated ‘passported’ benefits.

Economic modelling of the potential impacts of a Scotland-wide CBI was led by the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde in collaboration with the Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland (IPPR Scotland) and Manchester Metropolitan University.

The steering group have now designed a preferred model of CBI for piloting in Scotland which would run over the course of three years.  This would allow sufficient time for the realisation of short and some medium-term outcomes.  A one year preparation period would also be needed.

Two levels of CBI payment are proposed. The high level is based on the 2018 Minimum Income Standard (MIS) produced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in order to have a model that is likely to be able to substantially reduce or eradicate poverty. The second level of payment is more closely aligned with current benefit entitlements and provides an opportunity to test the effect of a CBI which is set at a lower income level.

Paul Vaughan added: “We hope our findings contribute to the wider discussion on Scottish society, economy and wellbeing, as well as help identify actions which may support ambitions in relation to basic income or social security reform.”     

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