In September 2017, the Scottish Government announced in its Programme for Government that it would support local authority areas to explore a Citizen’s Basic Income Scheme by establishing a fund to help areas to develop their proposals further and establish suitable testing. The amount of funding offered is £250,000 over the two financial years 2018/19 and 2019/20. This complements funding already committed by local authority areas.

While plans are at an early stage, it has been agreed that four local authority areas - Fife Council, City of Edinburgh Council, Glasgow City Council and North Ayrshire Council - will work together to research and explore the feasibility of local pilots of Basic Income in Scotland. The four areas collaboratively prepared and submitted a joint bid to the Citizen’s Basic Income Feasibility Fund on 29 March 2018.  The Scottish Government confirmed on 21 May 2018 that they would provide £250,000 over two years to support the feasibility work in Scotland.

What is planned for the coming year?

The four local authority areas will undertake research into the feasibility of a Basic Income pilot, supported by the Scottish Government and others, including NHS Health Scotland.

The main aim will be to test out the role of a Basic Income in reducing poverty in Scotland. The behavioural effects of a Basic Income are also of interest. It is possible that each of the pilot areas will develop different models of a Basic Income pilot linked to their area, potentially focusing on: a specific group (families, lone parents, health-related) or a specific geography (town, locality, neighbourhood). These different design options will be explored as part of the feasibility study.

Evaluation planning will be an integral part of the feasibility work. NHS Health Scotland will support the four local authorities to develop a common evaluation framework within which to assess the expected outcomes of local pilots of Basic Income in Scotland.

The Scottish Government have offered support to model the tax and benefit impacts of pilot design options or different levels of a Basic Income on different subgroups of the population.

It is expected that the design phase of the project would take from 12-18 months. It will be important for any pilot to have the necessary support to influence the future of national policy and the role of Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), HM Treasury and the NHS will be vital in the design and implementation of a Basic Income pilot.

The practicalities of undertaking a Basic Income pilot will also be explored, including how it might be funded, and how payments might be made.

Basic income pilots, of varying shapes and forms, are currently at planning stages or underway in Finland, Netherlands, Canada, Barcelona, USA and Kenya. Research is required to determine the feasibility of such a concept within a Scottish context. As part of the feasibility work, the Scottish partners will continue to watch international experiments closely, as they develop, to identify what lessons can be learned.

The four local authorities will produce a report for the Scottish Government on the findings of the feasibility work by September 2019. The learning from this work will be used to inform a decision about whether the Scottish Government will support the implementation of local pilots of Basic Income, and whether plans will progress beyond the feasibility / design phase.

Progression beyond the design phase is expected to take the form of a two or three-year pilot. The results of the pilots will be used to inform national social and economic policy. This could include recommendations about how the Scottish Government might use its new social security powers to reduce poverty in Scotland.