SNP warned basic income plan will hit vulnerable

The Scottish Government's own civil service briefings on plans for a Citizen's Basic Income (CBI) have warned it could see less cash for those most reliant on the benefits system.
Nicola Sturgeon has championed the schemeNicola Sturgeon has championed the scheme
Nicola Sturgeon has championed the scheme

Nicola Sturgeon’s administration is piloting a scheme in four council areas to research the feasibility of rolling out a taxpayer-funded citizen’s income across the country.

The First Minister’s Programme for Government pledged to look at the idea of a citizen’s income saying it “merits deeper consideration”.

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Edinburgh City Council, Glasgow City Council, Fife Council and North Ayrshire Council have committed to piloting a CBI.

But official Scottish Government documents, obtained by Freedom of Information legislation, have expressed fears that such a scheme would hit the most vulnerable.

A CBI has been a long-standing policy commitment of the Green Party, which has traditionally supported the SNP budgets produced by Ms Sturgeon’s minority administration.

Under the scenario proposed by campaigners, the basic income would be set at £11,500 for pensioners and £9,000 for adults, with an extra £4,600 to be given to parents with a child.

The Scottish Conservatives used Freedom of Information legislation to request copies of Scottish Government internal briefings on CBI that had been issued since September last year.

A briefing circulated to Nicola Sturgeon, communities secretary Angela Constance and social security minister Jeane Freeman cited expert advice that warned the system could be counterproductive.

The Scottish Government document said bodies like the Policy Network and the OECD had “concluded that CBI is not the best route forward due to its high cost to the taxpayer and the lack of individual support for those most in need of a safety net”.

The briefing summarised the arguments for a CBI, including the “moral principle” that all should be entitled to a basic income.

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It said the arguments for a CBI were that it would give every individual financial security, would lift people out of poverty and provide an incentive for work by ending means tested benefits. But the costs of the policy were such that experts had described it as “unaffordable” with economic modelling suggesting a tax rate on all earned income of 40 per cent would be required to provide a basic income near to the current Job Seeker’s Allowance rate of £74 per week.

It added: “Policy can further disadvantage the most vulnerable in society who would lose means tested benefits and be unable to supplement their basic income with employment. Policy could further entrench inequalities in society with no additional public funding available to address them.”

Last night Scottish Conservative shadow social security secretary Adam Tomkins said: “The plans for a citizen’s income are well intended, but they are utterly unaffordable and unsustainable. Not only will they cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions and drive up resentment. They’ll encourage a culture of benefits dependency.”

A spokesperson for Angela Constance said: “The Tories are responsible for the biggest assault on the welfare state in its history – and with 130,000 more children in Scotland predicted to be pushed into poverty as a result of their callous cuts, it highly hypocritical for them to criticise anybody for seeking to counteract that.”