AS basic income surges in interest and political consideration, it is important that we see critique as well as support. As people who have been involved in driving basic income forward for some time, we believe that a basic income could be the foundation to a new social contract for Scotland. For this to happen, we need to ensure that the policy is as strong and fair as possible.

In his article on May 18, George Kerevan raised some concerns about basic income, and its potential impact, that we think are important contributions to the debate. Indeed, as people who spend a lot of time working on this policy, and are committed to progressive outcomes, we share some of his concerns. But we think it is important to balance those concerns with the wider opportunities that basic income offers, and to recognise the different political context the discussions are taking place in for Scotland.

READ MORE: Why there are dangers of Scottish UBI ending up in the wrong hands

Firstly, Kerevan highlights that basic income is not a panacea. Absolutely, and no serious contributors from the basic income movement have been arguing that it is. Basic income is a foundational policy, one that revitalises the social contract, frayed after years of undermining, and which other policies can be built on top of. It does not need to solve every problem on its own, however, to be worthy of introduction. Rather, it will offer a secure base for all of our people, combined with a multiplying effect for other policies such as the living wage and rent control.

He also worries about some of the people that are interested in basic income, particularly the libertarian right and the less-than-progressive tech entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley. It is true that some libertarians have seen the idea of a basic income as a way to reduce or remove the role of the state; and leading figures of the right such as Friedrich Hayek saw a similar policy (negative income tax) as a means to the end they wanted to see. However, this is a policy that has primarily been pushed by radicals and progressives across the globe – whether Thomas Paine in revolutionary America and Europe; Martin Luther King as a means to combat poverty; or Desmond Tutu in South Africa combatting inequality. The fear of a limited number of supposed supporters having less than positive ambitions is not a reason to scrap a policy, especially given that those are not views with traction or support in Scotland. Rather, they are a call to us to ensure that the policy we deliver is one that benefits everyone in Scotland, and which helps to underpin real, radical change.

We reject his rather pessimistic characterisation of the Scottish working class – indeed, if he is correct about it then it is hard to see how any progressive change will ever be brought about. The work the Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland (CBINS) has been undertaking with community groups across Scotland has shown the level of openness, indeed demand, for new ways of thinking about social security. People have seen the impact that decades of underinvestment and undermining of the public sector have had on our communities – impact and inequality that has been accentuated in this current time of pandemic crisis. Indeed, rather than falling into an, ironically, passive acceptance of messages that citizens do not support others, with the overwhelming support of all people for the national lockdown strategy it is time to challenge the narrative that has been foisted upon us, and to bring our fellow Scots with us.

IN terms of payment, numerous groups ranging from the RSA to Reform Scotland have laid out costings and ideas for introducing a basic income in Scotland through a range of revenue sources (including data taxation and land value taxation). It is important to note two things – firstly, a basic income is achievable for Scotland; and secondly, we have to be clear that it is an investment in the future of the country and therefore will, and should, cost money in the first instance. That investment will be returned in future through positive impacts on health and wellbeing, use of public services, creation of new businesses – and is a key part of why this is an important and timely intervention.

Our purpose in this piece is not to reject the legitimate concerns that Kerevan has raised – we are delighted that he has contributed to the debate and hope he will continue to be a critical friend and ally. However, at a time when Covid-19 has highlighted the insecurities endemic to our system, and the empathy prevalent amongst our people, it would be a mistake to lose the chance for radical change because we were worried of what Richard Branson thinks.