ANENT the renewed calls for the introduction of a universal basic income in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The various amounts suggested for a UBI over the years have always been set too low, in my view, and Reform Scotland’s recent proposal of a UBI of £5200 per annum (£100 per week) is a further case in point.

This amount clearly wouldn’t cover housing costs or provide for extra costs related to long-term health conditions or disability, etc.

There would therefore require to be a system of additional top-up payments for people who are out of work, in low-paid employment or on a low income for other reasons.

Any UBI would either have to provide, or be part of a system providing, an adequate safety net. It would have to accommodate a wide range of individual circumstances like the social security system is supposed to do.

The inadequacies of the current safety net are well documented. It is clearly ideologically punitive and not fit for purpose. The New Economics Foundation (NEF), a progressive think tank which works to promote social, economic and environmental justice, has recently proposed a minimum income guarantee – not as a replacement for the benefits system but as a way of strengthening it.

They suggest it should be £200 per week excluding housing costs – a figure based on research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Citizens’ Advice as to the amount that people need in order to pay for their basic living costs such as food, utilites, etc.

The MIG would be a cash payment administered through the existing social security system, as this wouldn’t require a new system to be set up. In short, this payment would be more generous, less conditional and available more quickly.

The NEF’s proposal is certainly one that chimes with my long-held view that there’s no adequate substitute for a robust, respectful and dignified social security system.

To those who have internet access and are interested in learning more about the New Economic Foundation’s proposal, I would recommend the weekly briefings (podcasts) on their website.

Mo Maclean