THE full scale of the damage to the economy which will result from the coronavirus pandemic has yet to be seen. But last week the Scottish Government’s chief economist warned action to halt the spread of the virus would have long-lasting “scarring” effects on the economy.

Mairi Spowage, deputy director of the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute think-tank, said estimates of the potential damage were still uncertain, but there would be a “very big and very significant” hit.

“In terms of what the long-term impact might be on the economy, it depends on how long these sorts of measures are in place for and in what form,” she said.

“What most people are beginning to accept, is that this isn’t going to be over in a few months and is likely to continue in some form for the foreseeable future.

“The longer that happens the more likely it is our economy and maybe even our society will look quite different after we come out the other side of this.”

Spowage said one issue would be the longevity and flexibility of measures which have been announced to help businesses, such as the UK Government’s furlough scheme.

But she said the crisis had also raised issues around the wider “safety net” in society, such the level of support through Universal Credit.

“One of the interesting things about the conversation has been for people who earn much more, that their living standards must be maintained,” she said.

“What about the people who have been living on Universal Credit or that level of income for longer – why is it acceptable they are having to live on that if it is not acceptable to others?

“There is a question about the level of support and the minimum standard that people should expect to be given in a country like ours – which does raise some of the interesting questions about Citizen’s Basic Income.”

She added: “This whole crisis has raised a number of issues about what the safety net is in this country and whether it is sufficient.

“Will it be like after the Second World War where there was a big change in how the government viewed its role in society with the introduction of the NHS?

“It is difficult to know now because we are still in the middle of it – but it does have the potential to have long-term impacts on the way our economy and society works.”

The crisis has undoubtedly pushed the idea of Citizen’s Basic Income higher up the agenda. Last week, a cross-party group of 110 MPs and Peers – including 31 SNP MPs – wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for the UK Government to prepare to introduce a Recovery Universal Basic Income (UBI).

The letter states: “As we likely exit lockdown in a non-uniform way at an uneven speed, the system simply won’t be able to keep up with people’s individual changes of circumstances.

“This is why we need to put in place plans for a Recovery Universal Basic Income – a regular cash payment to every individual.”

The letter has also been signed by more than 10,000 people as a petition and will be presented to the Chancellor this week by campaign group the Basic Income Conversation.

The group’s director and co-founder Michael Pugh said: “What coronavirus has exposed to us all is the huge gaps in our existing system and the mass insecurity that people face.

“Even people that just a few weeks ago were relatively well off have suddenly found their income has disappeared.’’