A UNIVERSAL basic income is among the measures under consideration by the UK Government to alleviate pressures on citizens who face running out of money amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister indicated the policy was being considered after he was pressed on it by the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford and others in the Commons yesterday.

Blackford pushed Johnson to introduce an “emergency universal income” scheme.

He said: “Thousands of people are already losing their jobs, it’s happening today. Millions will face the same threat. They need reassurance and support, and they need it today. They need an income guarantee.

“We must not repeat history. People are worried about their bills, they are worried about keeping a roof over their head.

“In the last financial crisis the banks were bailed out, but ordinary people were not. Prime Minister, you have it within your power to protect people’s incomes and provide them with peace of mind.”

Johnson agreed to hold talks with supporters of the universal income scheme, adding: “I agree profoundly with what he said about not repeating history.

“It is very important that as we ask the public to do the right thing for themselves and everybody else that no-one – whatever their income – should be penalised for doing the right thing, and we will make sure that that is the case.”

The issue was later also raised by Kevin Brennan, Labour MP for Cardiff West, who said the crisis needed to be dealt with using more than three-word slogans.

He added: “We need to get money into the pockets of the workers”, and asked if the Prime Minister had seen the Early Day Motion in which he proposed bringing in a temporary universal basic income to support workers.

Johnson replied: “I hear the honourable gentleman loud and clear and he’s echoing a point that was already made by the leader of the SNP. Of course it is one of the ideas that is certainly being considered.”

Supporters of a universal basic income have suggested the level of income should be about £1000 per person per month and that the sum would be available to everyone during the pandemic.

They point out that it avoids the need for complicated means-testing and monitoring, preventing complex bureaucracy and administration. Advocates of the policy say this

sum would cost about the Treasury £66 billion a month – a fraction of the nearly £500bn bailout the UK needed to stay afloat during the 2008 financial crisis. In the current pandemic situation it is being proposed as a temporary measure. The UK Government says the UK will see half of all coronavirus

cases in a three-to-four week period either side of the peak in infections, and 95% of cases over a nine-to-10 week period.

Four councils in Scotland have been trialling how a universal basic income would work after the First Minister announced a £250,000 grant to explore the scheme.

Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife and North Ayrshire have been running pilots after the SNP backed examining the policy at its party conference several years ago.

The concept involves offering every individual, regardless of their existing benefit entitlement or earned income, a non-conditional flat-rate payment, with any income earned above that taxed progressively. The intention is to replace the welfare safety net with a platform on which people can build their lives, whether they choose to earn, learn, care or set up a business.

The idea has its roots in 16th-century humanist philosophy. The political theorist Thomas Paine advocated a citizen’s dividend. But there has been a groundswell of interest over the past decade not only among lateral thinkers but also anti-poverty groups, which see it as a means of changing the relationship between people and state, and between workers and the gig economy.