A PILOT scheme for a Citizen’s Basic Income (CBI) could still be on the cards for Scotland, despite its disappearance amid the Covid-19 health crisis.

The Scottish Government provided £250,000 to help finance a study into the feasibility of launching a pilot which was jointly run by councils in Fife, North Ayrshire, Edinburgh and Glasgow, in collaboration with NHS Scotland.

An interim report was published last October and the final report is due this summer, although the date is unclear because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The interim study indicated that a full-scale pilot would be recommended to the Scottish Government, with the aim of testing the effects of a Basic Income on “reducing poverty and providing a possible route to a fairer and simpler welfare system”.

Supporters from the Universal Basic Income Lab and Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland say a Scottish Government-sanctioned pilot would be the “most comprehensive and carefully designed” to be launched in the west and “could be a pivotal moment for this radical new idea”.

Basic income has moved into the political mainstream in recent years due to experimental schemes in Canada, the Netherlands, Namibia, India and Finland.

The economic effect of coronavirus in the UK has led to calls for an emergency Basic Income from across the political spectrum, and the Spanish government has also announced plans to roll out a permanent Basic Income in response to the crisis.

Although there is growing support, a CBI scheme would be far from easy to implement, given the complexities of devolved and reserved powers and navigating the current social security and benefits system.

Added to that are the many different models of CBI, which are all aimed at promoting fairness and giving people a basic income they can use to earn, learn, care, or set up in business.

A report last June from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) for the study noted: “A number of powers to make discretionary payments to people in various kinds of need are also administered by local authorities. These include the Scottish welfare fund and provision of financial support to children and adults in financial need by social work departments. Legislation is already in place to allow the exercise of these powers.

“However, the terms of the exceptions devolving these powers restrict their use to cases of defined need.”

As CPAG said of their document: “The report highlights the complexities of the current social security systems and the challenges involved in putting a basic income pilot in place.”

Added difficulties come in selecting which of the many types of CBI would be best for Scotland, as well as taking into account the multitude of views on the subject.

The steering group’s interim report said: “There are mixed views across political parties and civic society on the merits of CBI, with some prominent and persuasive advocates very active in this area. There is also marked variation in the aspirations and models of CBI supported by different groups.

“Some important groups do not support a CBI as the best way of reducing poverty and are critical of some of the models that have thus far been proposed.

“There is, however, substantial support for the objectives of CBI, particularly in reducing poverty, and widespread interest in further investigating the potential of CBI.”

A prominent advocate of the universal or citizen’s income scheme is SNP MP Ronnie Cowan, who told the Sunday National: “I am delighted that here in Scotland we are taking such a responsible approach to the suitability of a UBI.

“The £250,000 supplied by the Scottish Government has enabled the feasibility study. The next step in this increasingly popular journey will be a full scale pilot. UBI is both a platform on which people can build stable lives and a safety net to catch us at those times when life unexpectedly takes the legs from under us.

“The principle is one of security for all without discrimination. Previous pilot schemes have indicated improved mental and physical health in the participants and I am sure the Scottish pilot will gather data on a range of aspects, which can then be encompassed in a UBI that is effective, practical and affordable for Scotland.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Scotland to lead the world and the worldwide UBI community will be paying very close attention to this next important stage.”