THE TORIES have accused Nicola Sturgeon of “pandering to the extreme left” by funding research into a citizen’s basic income.

During last month’s programme for government unveiling, the First Minister said the policy – where each individual in the country receives the same amount of money, regardless of wealth or employment status – was one that “merits deeper consideration.”

She said the Scottish Government would “work with interested local authorities to fund research into the concept and feasibility of a citizen’s basic income (CBI).”

But the Tories say they’ve uncovered Scottish Government papers from earlier this year that show the government has already carried out research into the concept and feasibility, and that it would cost £12.3 billion a year.

The Scottish Government has rubbished the Tory claims, saying initial research suggests a figure closer to £3.6bn that would, in part, be funded by changes to welfare and benefits.

In documents obtained under Freedom of Information, civil servants told Sturgeon, finance secretary Derek Mackay, social security secretary Angela Constance and minister Jeane Freeman in March that basic income “is a very costly policy, is unlikely to gain public acceptability and ultimately may not have the desired transformative effect”.

The paper also sets out concerns that the high cost of a CBI could lead to existing social programmes being “rolled back.”

The analysis, from March, by the Scottish Government’s housing and social justice director Liz Hawkins, said the scheme would require Scotland to accept much higher marginal tax rates.

Quoting work by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the report says that if the basic income did not include housing benefit payments, then “whatever system was developed would require a tax rate on all earned income of around 40 per cent”.

“Everyone with an income below £40,000 will gain, whereas those with incomes above that will lose,” Hawkins warned.

Adam Tomkins, the Scottish Tory shadow social security secretary, said: “Nicola Sturgeon and her finance team were told in no uncertain terms that a scheme for CBI would be utterly unaffordable and not remotely sustainable.

“Despite these stark warnings, she continued to create an impression that she was going to introduce it. This suggests she is pandering to the extreme left of the Yes movement in the hope they won’t turn on her over poor polling and the fact separation is dead in the water. This briefing makes plain just how unworkable the CBI approach would be.”

A spokesman for Angela Constance said: “The Tories are making inequalities in our society ever deeper – so their hysterical reaction to even considering a proposal such as a basic income is no surprise. Clearly a nationwide CBI would be a significant financial investment – and the document does not suggest that this could be £12.3bn as the Tories wrongly claim – but the whole point is that it could potentially lead to significant savings elsewhere in the social security system and in the wider public sector.”