It was in September 2017 that the Scottish Government decided to support local authorities – namely Fife, City of Edinburgh, Glasgow City Council and North Ayrshire Council – so these could conduct feasibility studies on potential basic income pilots within their districts. A 250 000 £ fund was made available by the government, complementing the common resources shared by these localities for this innovative pursuit.

The feasibility phase is projected to end in March 2020, precisely a year from now. Although the study is being managed locally, within the cited localities, it is being developed together with governmental institutes like the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Her Majesty’s (HM) Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the National Health Service (NHS) in Scotland, without which future basic income pilot schemes in the UK cannot be rolled out. This initiative is even more important, within UK’s internal organization, knowing that employment, health and safety, and social security policy are reserved matters, which means these are dealt centrally at Westminster Parliament.

Responsible officials for the study, also named the Steering Group, have been engaging with all the cited governmental institutes, plus learning all available information on other basic income-like experiments around the world, and attending Conferences focused on basic income (such as the last BIEN Conference in Tampere, Finland). These officials, and their associated team, are expected to present an interim report in autumn 2019, culminating at the presentation of a final report by March 2020.

Even though the feasibility study is still in its infancy, an update on the work’s progression has already been released (March 5th). It is scheduled as indicated below, in which Phases 1 and 2 have already been concluded (Phase 2 is just ending).

Nicola Sturgeon (Prime Minister of Scotland). Picture credit to: The Independent

Phase 1 (ended)

May 2018-October 2018

  • Local authority partners content with objectives
  • Broad agreement
  • Identified clear research questions

Phase 2 (just ending)

November 2018-March 2019

  • Agreed on outcomes of interest (individual and household income; changes in adult and child poverty; labour market participation; individual and community empowerment; health, well-being and education; experience of the social security system)
  • Identification of 11 possible models for basic income pilots
  • Identification and commissioning of research activities (social benefits – basic income interactions; economic modelling of basic income; direct impact simulations on household income and poverty)
  • Identification of appropriate funding and delivery mechanisms

Phase 3

April 2019-September 2019

  • Upon evaluation, decision from the Scottish government to go ahead with the pilots
  • Upon evaluation, decision from the included localities to support implementation (of the pilots)

Phase 4

October 2019-March 2020

  • Presentation of detailed methods for the experiment, costing and baseline data identifies
  • Secure funding and delivering mechanisms to start the pilot

As immediate next steps, the study team will now invest in understanding how to articulate the pilot basic income with the existent Social Benefits structure (in partnership with the Child Poverty Action Group). In parallel, it will also entail “economic modelling of broader and second order impacts on the local and national economy”, as well as “modelling (of the) the impacts of CBI (Citizens Basic Income) on income and poverty”. In this core stage of the feasibility study, funding and payment option will also be analysed in detail, while interaction with the several stakeholders and partners is deepened.

It seems that the Scottish approach to a basic income pilot is mostly from the bottom-up, in an attempt to articulate the operation of existing income distribution rules with the new element of basic income. This may not only be a necessity to effectively develop the basic income pilot, but makes sense in a more general and longer-term view of implementing a basic income in the region, further down the road. In any case, further important updates will come to us in September this year.

More information at:

Scottish Citizens Basic Income Feasibility Study – Project Update Report”, Basic Income Scotland, March 14th 2019

Scottish Citizens Basic Income Feasibility Project – Update report to Scottish Government 5th March 2019

Sara Bizarro, “SCOTLAND: Scottish Government provides £250k to support feasibility work on BI pilots”, Basic Income News, December 2nd 2017

About Andre Coelho

André Coelho has written 367 articles.

Activist. Engineer. Musician. For the more beautiful world our hearts know it's possible.