A cross-party committee of the Scottish Parliament will hold a committee meeting on basic income on March 9, which will be broadcast live on television.

Scotland’s basic income movement has recently enjoyed time in the media spotlight due to the planning of pilot studies in the city of Glasgow and council area of Fife (see, for example, articles in The Guardian by Libby Brooks and Kevin McKenna). While these efforts are being pursued by the respective regional councils, the country’s legislature is also investigating the possibility of a basic income for all of Scotland.  

On March 9, 2017, the Social Security Committee of the Scottish Parliament will convene a meeting at which a panel of experts is to present evidence concerning the feasibility of a basic income. The cross-party committee intends to investigate what level of basic income would be sufficient, how the program could be funded, and whether it could be implemented in Scotland given the current devolution of powers in the UK.

Sandra White, MSP from the Scottish National Party (SNP), is the Convener of the Social Security Committee. Explaining the importance of the session on basic income, she says, “We all know the current benefits system is riddled with complexity, and on the face of it the concept of a universal income for everyone is an interesting alternative. However, whilst there is much talk at the moment of the benefits of a citizen’s income, this Committee wants to investigate if the principle can work in practice. Whilst we all want a system that is fairer and looks after those most in need, it’s clear that the implementation of such a concept is far from straightforward.”

The SNP, Scotland’s largest political party, passed a motion endorsing basic income at its conference in March 2016.

The website of the Scottish Parliament notes five experts will address the committee, all of whom have previously written on basic income proposals for Scotland or the UK (see background reading below):

• Donald Hirsch (Professor and Director of the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University)

• Siobhan Mathers (Reform Scotland Advisory Board)

• Annie Miller (Chair of Citizen’s Income Trust, co-founder of BIEN and Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland)

• Anthony Painter (Director of the Action and Research Centre of the Royal Society for Arts)

• Howard Reed (Director of Landman Economics)

The meeting will be broadcast live on www.scottishparliament.tv.


More information: https://www.parliament.scot/newsandmediacentre/103064.aspx

Background Reading

Annie Miller, “Why an independent Scotland would fair better with a Citizen’s Income (CI) or Basic Income (BI) scheme,” Evidence to the Expert Working Group on Welfare, December 13, 2013.

Miller has previously submitted evidence on basic income to the Scottish Government, describing the purported benefits of, philosophical arguments for, and existing empirical research on the idea. (She does not propose any specific basic income scheme here.)  


Donald Hirsch, “Could a Citizen’s Income Work?,” Joseph Rowntree Foundation, March 2015.

Hirsch considers major shifts in popular opinion that would be required for the acceptance of a universal basic income. He maintains that UBI is not immediately viable but that reforms in the UK’s Universal Credit system could start to make UBI eventually “more thinkable than it is today.”


Anthony Painter and Chris Thoung, “Creative citizen, creative state: The principled and pragmatic case for a Universal Basic Income,” RSA, December 2015.

Painter and Thoung present multiple arguments for UBI, and develop a proposal for a scheme for the UK, modifying an earlier proposal put forward by the Citizen’s Income Trust. The RSA won a 2016 “Think Tank of the Year” award in part due to this report.


James Mackenzie, Siobhan Mathers, Geoff Mawdsley, and Alison Payne, “The Basic Income Guarantee,” Reform Scotland, February 2016.

The authors critique the UK’s existing welfare system and propose the replacement of many benefits with a universal basic income. They develop a funding model for UBI at the level proposed by the Scottish Greens (£100 per week per adult and £50 per week per child).


Howard Reed and Stewart Lansley, “Universal Basic Income: An idea whose time has come?” Compass, May 2016.

Reed and Lansley simulate and analyze basic income schemes for the UK: three variants of a “full scheme” that replaces most existing means-tested benefits, and two variants of a “modified scheme” that exists alongside existing means-tested benefits in place. They recommend the latter, possibly as transition to the former, and discuss possible funding sources.


Reviewed by Asha Pond

Photo: Scottish Parliament Building, CC BY-NC 2.0 Hamish Irvine


About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 512 articles.

Former lead writer and editor of Basic Income News. Now with The Ecological Citizen.