The proposed basic income pilots in Scotland are receiving a lot of attention in the media but it isn’t always clear what exactly is going on, and what progress is being made towards a pilot being launched. Right now the team behind the pilots are conducting a ‘feasibility study’ which will determine if a pilot can be carried out. In this short series we explain what those studies are, and what’s needed from them to be successful.
Dr Benjamin Simmons, Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland Trustee @vforfive
One of the biggest challenges facing the basic income movement in Scotland is message control. Too often it is reported that Scotland is running pilots, or is going to run pilots, when in fact we are still in the process of deciding if a pilot is possible. The work underway is called a feasibility study, and it means examining what kind of pilots could be possible and what we could find out from them. Based on the outcome of the feasibility study the Scottish Government may decide to fund one or many pilots in Scotland, but this outcome is by no means certain. If you would like to learn what a pilot scheme is you can read our blog on the subject.
Who is carrying out the feasibility study?
The work is being carried out through a Steering Group comprised of representatives from the four local authorities (Fife, North Ayrshire, Edinburgh and Glasgow) and NHS Health Scotland. The Improvement Service will provide support to the group including the recruitment of staff and the commissioning of research.
What is a feasibility study?
A feasibility study is how you decide if the thing you want to do is possible. The Scottish Government will need to make a decision on whether to release a very large sum of money to fund a basic income pilot, and they need a specific set of questions answered before they have the information they need to make that decision. The feasibility study needs to either answer those questions, or assure the government that a pilot would provide them with the information they need to decide if a basic income is a good idea.
For example, the Government may decide that for them to support a basic income they need to know for sure that it has a positive impact on health. If a basic income pilot cannot provide an answer to that question then the Government is not going to spend the money running a pilot. The feasibility study in this case would need to demonstrate that it is possible to run a pilot that would measure the impact on health.
What questions does a feasibility study need to answer?
The feasibility study needs to show that there is public demand for a basic income pilot, that political support for the pilots can be achieved, that a pilot will answer some or all of the key questions people are asking about the impact of a basic income, and whether there is support from key UK institutions such as HMRC, the DWP, and the Treasury to permit a pilot to take place and to fund it.
So what now?
The simple answer is to watch and wait for the outcomes of the feasibility study. The team delivering the feasibility studies have their work cut out for them. The best thing we can do as a society is to educate ourselves about the reality of the feasibility study, any possible pilots, and the arguments for and against basic income.
There will be opportunities to engage with politicians and the team behind it to make your views and concerns heard, and CBINS will be doing everything we can to create as many of these opportunities as possible, as well as communicate your views to policy makers through our participation in the cross-party working group and similar forums. Speak to us, help us organise an event in your area, and make your voice heard. The more we are able to engage with different communities the better we can represent you when we’re talking to power.
We’re excited to see what the feasibility study holds for basic income in Scotland. To stay in the loop you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for our mailing list. Hopefully we’ll see you at an event near you soon, and if there isn’t one – help us put one on!
Next we’ll ask: Can basic income gain the necessary political support for a pilot?