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April 21, 2020

Seize the moment 

The roll out of Universal Credit has been by common consent an unmitigated disaster causing misery and distress along the way. But so much political capital has been spent in defending its ‘merits’ it’s surely inconceivable the Government would ever back away. And yet now with millions more now being compelled to sign up for it because the entire economy is in a state of hibernation, it seems that there might actually be an opportunity to consider more radical solutions. Our own First Minister has even called it ‘the right thing to do’. Reform Scotland lays out the case.

Reform Scotland

Reform Scotland, the independent, non-party think tank, has called on the UK and Scottish governments to introduce a ‘basic income’ scheme to support people through the Coronavirus crisis. There is growing support for the policy: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called a basic income “the right thing” to do, while the Spanish Government has announced its intention to introduce the policy.

Although the UK Government has announced a range of financial support measures, many people will be caught between the cracks of the different packages and there will still be a time lag before some are available. As a result Reform Scotland believes a Universal Basic Income should be reconsidered.

The concept of Reform Scotland’s Basic Income Guarantee is that every citizen, regardless of income, gender or employment status, received a set amount of money, free of tax, but in place of personal allowances, tax credits and a number of other benefits.

Reform Scotland suggests it is set at £5,200 per year for adults, and £2,600 per year for children. The financial implications are set out in its new briefing paper One For All: The Case for a Basic Income Guarantee.

Commenting, Reform Scotland Board member Siobhan Mathers said:

“The Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented crisis, which is seeing major government interventions to help our country and its citizens make it through to the other side. We believe one of those interventions should now be a basic income. It is a logical and necessary consequence of Coronavirus.

“As a response to the acute consequences of Coronavirus, a basic income would provide some financial certainty to the many people who have been thrown into a sudden and catastrophic loss of employment or reduced hours.

“It would be a bold, but welcome short-term move. However, we suggest it would also create the right long-term environment as we try to rebuild our lives and our economy. Our current social security system is overly complicated, and actively discourages work because the loss of benefits when a person starts work can often leave them losing money.

“Our national economic recovery must begin with a clear signal that work always pays. Our Basic Income Guarantee would do that, because working would not lead to a withdrawal of benefit. It will take political boldness, political will, and the sort of cooperation between the Scottish and UK Governments which has been such a welcome by-product of the Coronavirus crisis so far.

“People are suffering from the pandemic because they are doing the right thing by the government. Now the government must do the right thing by the people.”

To read the full briefing from Reform Scotland