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 (CBI) Scheme by establishing a fund to help areas to develop their proposals further and establish suitable testing. The fund of £250,000 was received by four local authorities – Fife Council, City of Edinburgh Council, Glasgow City Council and North Ayrshire Council – who have been working together to research and explore the feasibility of local pilots of CBI in Scotland. This funding complemented resources already committed by local authorities.
What has happened so far?
The four local authority areas have been undertaking research into the feasibility of a CBI pilot, supported by the Scottish Government, NHS Health Scotland and the Improvement Service. An evaluability assessment process has already begun to explore the nature of possible pilot options, the likely costs of pilot options, and the hypotheses or research questions that a pilot might seek to address.
The feasibility project will take 20 months in total, ending in March 2020. It will be important for any potential pilot to have the necessary support to influence the future of national policy and the role of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), HM Treasury and the NHS will be vital in the design and implementation of any CBI pilot.
The Steering Group are continuing to engage with DWP to explore the complexities surrounding the interaction of a potential pilot with the current benefits system. These discussions are ongoing, and there is high level commitment to engaging with the project from the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
The Steering Group has also met twice with a group of stakeholders from a broad range of backgrounds to seek feedback on progress so far and future plans. A Councillor group providing project governance has now met three times.
CBI pilots, of varying shapes and forms, are currently at planning stages or underway in Finland, Netherlands, Canada, Barcelona, USA and Kenya. As part of the feasibility research, the Scottish partners have watched the international experiments closely, as they develop, to identify what lessons can be learned. Within the last six months there have been interesting developments in international pilots – experiments in Finland finished as expected at the end of 2018 and the Canadian experiment was ended prematurely in July 2018. Representatives from the Steering Group have met with experts working on these high-profile experiments to learn more about their experiences and challenges of piloting a CBI. In the interests of learning more about designing, implementing and evaluating pilots, a delegation from Scotland, funded by Carnegie UK Trust, attended the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) Congress in August 2018. This provided a unique opportunity to hear from a range of International experts, as well as share plans for our feasibility study. The Steering Group have produced a learning report from this visit, which was published in January 2019 by Carnegie UK Trust.
So what next?
The practicalities of undertaking a CBI pilot will be explored, including how it might be funded, and how payments might be made. Research will be commissioned to look at how a CBI pilot interacts with the current social security system, along with work to model the possible wider economic impact of a CBI in Scotland.
The Councillor group met again in February, ahead of the submission of a progress report to Scottish Government on 5th March 2019. The progress report can be downloaded below. The four local authorities will produce an interim report for the Scottish Government on the findings of the feasibility research in autumn 2019, and a full business case in March 2020. 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 CBI, and whether plans will progress beyond the feasibility / design phase.