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Since 2016, a number of local authorities in Scotland have committed their support for local experiments into the impacts of Basic Income. Fife, Glasgow and North Ayrshire Councils have all committed to exploring such experiments. These Councils were recently joined by Edinburgh. Today, the Scottish Government has announced support and funding for these local initiatives.

The RSA called for local experiments in its report Creative Citizen, Creative State: the principled and pragmatic case for a Universal Basic Income, and has been working with Glasgow Council to explore the feasibility of such experiments. It welcomes Scottish Government funding, announced today, to develop plans for local experiments further as a support for people in their working lives.

Jamie Cooke, Director of RSA Scotland said:

"We are delighted to see this commitment from the Scottish Government to support the development of UBI pilots. We have been working closely with the various Scottish Local Authorities who have shown leadership in this field. Support from the Government will provide a huge impetus for action.

We face challenges within the current social security system as it struggles to respond to modern challenges, and are in a period of flux in terms of the changing nature of work and employment.  UBI offers an opportunity to respond to these challenges, breaking down barriers to work which currently exist, offering space for better quality work, and helping move people out of the precarious lives that many are currently stuck in.

This is a significant opportunity for Scotland to be a global leader in social policy innovation, and to work with other pilots across the world to develop robust evaluation of UBI as a response to the challenges we face.  We look forward to working with Scottish Government and other parties in taking this forward."

Anthony Painter, Director of the RSA’s Action and Research Centre and co-author of the RSA’s report, said:

“Universal Basic Income has the potential to be a key foundation for economic security, enabling people to make a wider contribution including through work. There is a myth that Basic Income is at odds with work. We believe that it in fact forms a foundation for better work.

It is a major change to the support that all citizens receive from the Government. As such, we welcome experimentation and the support committed today helps Scotland join Finland, Canada and several places in the US in exploring how Basic Income can enable better and more secure working lives.

We hope to see more such experiments across the UK. Other cities across the UK face the same challenges as these Scottish cities and there is an argument for the UK Government supporting innovation in a way the Scottish Government has. We need innovative thinking and experimentation to support people to make the most of their potential in the modern economy.”

The Scottish Government says it will focus funding on suitable testing for local authority proposals. This is crucial, as any structural change to the social security and social assistance at the national level will need watertight evidence of the net impact for the people who go through the first experimental cohorts.

What the Scottish Government also recognises is that UBI has the potential to achieve twin goals of helping those on the lowest incomes back into work, as well as helping those who want to work more hours make progress in that direction. The RSA will work to ensure that the public and private sectors recognise that new trials of UBI connect to broader societal debates about good work in the modern economy, the future of work, and the future of public services.

Taking this agenda forward in England, the RSA’s work with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) is working at a neighbourhood scale to reconsider how the public sector can transform the way it helps getting people in to work while helping people get on and progress through the workforce. In this town that gave birth to the co-operative movement, as part of a DCLG funded regeneration project, RBH is designing in detail a pilot programme of UBI. This could transform the life chances of a group of Rochdale residents, as it will explore alternative ways of administering financial support, allied to significant personalised support in achieving individual objectives through good work.

Find out more about the RSA's work on Universal Basic Income

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