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Scotland could become the first part of the UK to trial universal basic income, after a pilot scheme won backing from campaigners and councillors in the council area of Fife.
The premise of Universal Basic Income (UBI) is pretty simple: give people a monthly cash injection to cover living expenses such as food, transport, clothes, and utilities, regardless of their income, social status, or anything else for that matter. No questions asked.
The idea behind universal basic income is that giving everyone the same amount of cash gets rid of overly bureaucratic, complicated welfare states, and makes ensuring all citizens have a decent standard of living much easier.
Details of the proposed trial scheme will be discussed during a meeting in Fife on Friday afternoon, attended by Scottish government civil servants, councillors, and members of the Scottish Basic Income Network (SBIN) which campaigns for the system’s introduction, reports the National.
Advocates for the system say that it allows the government to abolish the costly and often discriminatory layers of bureaucracy bound up in the current welfare system, and provides a safety net for all citizens regardless of working status. Critics say that it would drive up taxes, and allocate money to those who do not need it.
In March this year the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP), led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, voted in favour of a motion backing the principle of UBI.
The details of exactly who would fund the trial are not yet clear. The Scottish government has some devolved control of its welfare spending, but the trial scheme would likely need backing from Westminster. Paul Vaughan, Fife Council’s head of community and corporate development, told Business Insider that “the view of the Scottish Government is that they have some of the authority, but not all of it, to push the pilot forward.”
“We want to draw up a plan we can give to councillors about how we see the pilot going and why we want to do it in Fife,” he said.
“We will use Friday’s meeting as a stepping stone to discuss seeking co-operation with the UK and Scottish Governments and the various departments that would need to be involved,” he added.
Trials for basic income are already in the pipeline in other parts of Europe: Small government pilots in Holland and Finland next year will test whether the idea delivers any of its mooted benefits, although Switzerland voted against introducing the scheme in a June referendum.
Jamie Cooke, head of the Royal Society of Arts Scotland, has carried out research on the proposed Scottish pilot scheme, and will attend the Friday meeting. He said there had been a number of meetings between campaign group SBIN and Fife councillors, and hopes the result of the meeting will be an agreement to introduce a pilot scheme in some towns and villages in the area.
He told the National that support for the scheme was growing across Europe. “This is an exciting opportunity for Scotland to look at something quite radical and put the country at the forefront of work in a policy which is getting growing levels of support across Europe,” he said.
“People working in the field in Finland and Holland are now looking at Scotland as a place where this can be developed,” he added.