Coronavirus prompts Scotland’s first minister to make UBI a policy priority

The “time has come” for universal basic income (UBI) in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, the first minister said there will be “constructive discussions” with the UK government on the matter.

Under the scheme, residents would be given a universal payment from the government, with some benefits scrapped.

The Scottish government has brought forward four pilots of a similar scheme in different council areas, but it is the UK government that has the ultimate power over creating a national scheme.

When asked about the move at the briefing, the first minister said: “The experience of the virus and the economic consequences of that have actually made me much, much more strongly of the view that it is an idea that’s time has come.

“As one of the many things that we should rethink, this should be up there, quite close to the top of the list.”

The Scottish government would need more control over taxation and social security to make such a scheme a reality but the first minister said she hopes to “get into a constructive discussion” with the UK government about the scheme.

She added she would like conversations to take place “hopefully reasonably quickly” after the coronavirus pandemic is over.

The first minister added: “Watch this space.”

Think tank Reform Scotland devised a detailed proposal for a UBI scheme.

It would consist of an annual payment of £5,200 a year for adults and £2,600 for those under 16.

Annually, the scheme would cost the Scottish government £20 billion, with measures found to raise £18.34 billion in revenue to support the scheme.

When the think tank published its report in April, the first minister described it as “interesting and timely”, adding the coronavirus outbreak strengthened the case “immeasurably”.

by Craig Paton

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