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 completed the draft final report on their findings.

The report concludes a CBI pilot is desirable, but recognises the significant challenges involved.

Over the past two years, City of Edinburgh, Fife, North Ayrshire and Glasgow City Council 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.

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 (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.     

A Councillor Group of senior councillors from across the four local authorities provided oversight of the work of the Steering Group which included Depute Leader Cllr Cammy Day.

He said:

The Coronavirus pandemic is resulting in more people than ever struggling to pay their bills and those already on low incomes are suffering the most. Bold new ideas are needed to help people keep their heads above water both now and in a changed future landscape. Citizen’s Basic Income is one such idea and, along with approaches like job guarantee schemes to provide real work and a real living wage, is a policy we should seriously consider as a solution to the challenges people are facing.

This research makes an invaluable contribution to debate on how we can improve wellbeing and reduce poverty but it needs support from both Scottish and UK Governments to make it a success. Yes there are substantial challenges for introducing a CBI pilot but they are not insurmountable when weighed against the significant potential benefits for those most in need.


Published: June 11th 2020