Today we made good progress towards getting a Universal Basic Income (UBI) for Glasgow. I amended a welfare motion to call for a cross-party working group to investigate plans for a UBI in Glasgow. The amendment was approved and the motion was carried with collective support from Greens, Labour and SNP.
Hopefully now can be the start of a collective effort across the chamber to create a robust plan of action. And about time too.
As I outlined in the chamber today, now is the time for a step change in economic thinking.
Insecure working conditions, persistent gender discrimination, benefit delays, a cruel sanctions regime, startling health inequalities and continued austerity, shows our economy is failing many.
Individuals, families and communities often feel powerless in the face of these decisions, all taken without their participation or control. Decisions which have been made by the UK Government to ‘save money’ have done anything but.
They have created extra financial costs for all public bodies in Scotland and, worse than that, have worsened inequality and poverty for many. Shameful.
A Universal Basic Income is not a magic bullet to these problems. But if properly funded it can provide a solid foundation from which individuals, families and communities can shape a better and healthier life.
A Universal Basic Income is also not a replacement to the social security system. Disabled people, carers, and others still deserve, and would receive, extra income and support on top of this.
Opponents have argued it’s just ‘free money’ and that people won’t work. But that is flawed on many levels. For a start the sanctions approach of ‘conditionality’ doesn’t work: it is expensive, does not help people find work, seriously impacts health and wellbeing, and drives people deeper into poverty, often by forcing them to leave a cruel system.
Instead of taxing people to then redistribute this ‘free money’, opponents argue for lower taxes. But this completely ignores the inequalities being created by our current economy which is already costing the tax payer in paying for homeless accommodation, in donating to foodbanks, funding the NHS, etc. Nevermind the wider health and social disadvantages we are all suffering from as a result of such stark inequality. For more on this, check out the Equality Trust.
There is also the question of funding but with enough political will this will always be found. Just look at the ‘austerity’ UK Government’s recent move to buy off the DUP for £1bn, not that we should be looking there for any inspiration!
At the start of 2017, I wrote a blog asking if the coming 12 months would be the year of the Universal Basic Income (UBI). This is just the beginning and a lot of work will be needed to get the proper pilot this deserves. But today we took an important step forward.