Tories’ Attack on Basic Income Pilots is Based on Fear of Results

The Scottish Conservatives’ Social Security Spokeswoman, Michelle Ballantyne has recently called the basic income pilots across Scotland an “SNP vanity project” and suggests that “the scheme should be dropped now”. At a time when universal credit is shown to be failing, the Conservatives should not be misrepresenting evidence to attack research into an alternative. 

Dr Benjamin Simmons, Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland Trustee @vforfive

The Scottish Conservatives’ recent attack on the Scottish Government’s proposal for a series of basic income pilots is disproportionate and hypocritical. The claim is that the cost of the project has trebled, however, their position inflates the total expenditure by including the time staff spent on the project as if it were extra hours or new employees. In reality the project will be supported by staff in existing roles. They are acting in bad faith in a bid to score political points.

Basic income is a simple system which throws the complex means-tested system into sharp relief, and not to the benefit of the party driving austerity. The opposition to a relatively small investment in a scientific examination of the system speaks volumes about their fear of the results. If they truly believed basic income was unfeasible or ineffective they would support a pilot scheme to prove their point, yet they don’t.

Four councils in Scotland (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and North Ayrshire) have been given the green light by the Scottish government to undertake research into the best way that a pilot scheme or schemes could be implemented. £250,000 has been set aside to fund the project, including two new full-time posts, and the project is expected to run for almost two years before recommendations are made. NHS Scotland is providing research design and evaluation support in exploring feasibility of local pilots of basic income in Scotland.

Jamie Cooke, Head of RSA Scotland commented “Rather than shortsighted, the Scottish Government and Local Authorities should be commended for taking a hard look at the state of social security and support in Scotland. When the National Audit Office has recently savaged the multiple failings of the Universal Credit system, we would have hoped that the Scottish Conservatives would be looking at a way to improve the lives of people across the country, rather than clinging to an obviously failing system for attempts at partisan point scoring.

Basic income is being explored as a potential idea for Scotland to rise to the challenges and opportunities of the world we are in – it is therefore reassuring that the Scottish Government and Local Authorities are fully supporting the work that is underway. We look forward to contributing to taking this timely idea forward, in partnership with countries across the world, and hope that all of Scotland’s political parties will choose to engage constructively, whether critical or supportive, rather than retreating into dead-ends of partisanship. The door will be open at the RSA for them to take part in that dialogue.”

The Tory opposition to basic income comes not from concern for the vulnerable but from a desire to score political points. The pilot research project is not over budget and is not predicted to go over budget. Research into a better social security system, especially in light of Universal Credit’s failings, should be a priority for all parties.

To hear more from Ben and Jamie come along to our event What is Basic Income? on Wed 11 July

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