An important starting point for exploring the feasibility of implementing a basic income in Scotland, is the level of public awareness and understanding. We explored this in Fife through a survey last year.
Familiarity with Basic Income
There appears to be a good level of public awareness of the concept of basic income in Fife, with more than half of respondents saying that they know something about it, or understand it fully.
The definition of a basic income that we used in the survey was:
Likely effect of a Basic Income on use of time
Just under half of respondents say that a basic income, at that level, would not affect how they would use their time. Some say that they would gain additional skills, or look for a different job. Older people would be more likely to do more volunteering work. Younger people would be more likely to choose to spend more time with family.
Some say they would work for themselves, or work less. A minority of people say that they would stop working. These tend to be people who are approaching retirement age.
A similar pattern in how people say they would use their time holds whether respondents are economically active or economically inactive.
Arguments FOR a basic income
The main argument that people find convincing in favour of a basic income is its perceived role in reducing anxiety about financing basic needs. This is followed by basic income encouraging independence and a sense of control, reducing bureaucracy and administrative costs, and creating more equality of opportunity. Increasing appreciation for household work and volunteering, fairer to women, and encouraging people to give back to their community appear to be less convincing arguments. Those who say None of these options, tend to be against basic income.
Arguments AGAINST a basic income
The main arguments that people find convincing against a basic income are that it would be difficult to finance, it increases dependence on the state, and only the people who need it most should get something. Another reason given against basic income is that it would mean everyone paying higher taxes. Younger people appear to be more concerned about this. That people should not be given something for nothing, but should be linked to their efforts, or that others might come to my community to take advantage appear to be less convincing reasons. Those who say None of these options, tend to be for basic income.
Views on introducing a Basic Income in Fife or Scotland
A mixed picture emerges when people are asked about how they would vote if there was to be a referendum on introducing basic income in Scotland.
When asked about whether they would be for or against a trial of introducing basic income in Fife, there appeared to be a greater willingness to try this, with people shifting from being unsure, to being for testing out basic income in Fife. The difference between the Scotland and the Fife picture appears to be being driven by those who are economically active being more likely to be in favour of a trial of introducing basic income in Fife.
Where are we now?
Fife, Edinburgh, Glasgow and North Ayrshire Councils are working with NHS Health Scotland to explore the feasibility of local pilots of basic income in Scotland. More about the work and what is being planned is available on the Basic Income Scotland website http://basicincome.scot
About this research
Members of Fife People’s Panel (a representative panel of 1% of the adult population in Fife) were invited to complete either a paper or online survey between 16 June and 14 July 2017. 892 people responded to Fife People’s Panel Survey 28.
Additional results from this survey can be found as part of a wider background report on what would need to considered in planning a pilot of Basic Income in Fife.