SCOTLAND “must learn” from a Universal Basic Income (UBI) trial in England which could be a “game changer” in tackling poverty.

A UBI of £1600 a month is to be put to the test south of the Border where 30 people in two areas will be paid the lump sum without conditions each month for two years.

Similar pilots are already under way in other countries. In Wales, the devolved government is running a scheme paying a £1600 a month for two years to young people leaving care. It says it will report on the outcome after the trial finishes.

The idea has been criticised by Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith who sarcastically tweeted: “They’ll be surprised to hear there’s a system already in place regarding income, which is widely referred to as ‘employment’.

“Who pays? An absolutely dreadful idea and I think the people behind this initiative will struggle to raise the funds necessary.”

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But Green MSP Maggie Chapman said Scotland should be looking to learn from the English trial and use whatever powers it can to “build a social security system and an economy that works for people and our communities”.

Basic Income Network Scotland (BINS) – a campaign set up last year to promote the idea of UBI in an independent Scotland – has insisted a UBI is “affordable and necessary” if poverty is to be eradicated.

The SNP committed to a minimum income guarantee (MIG) in its manifesto but the Scottish Parliament does not have sufficient powers to bring in a UBI.

An MIG is slightly different to a UBI. It would make sure nobody falls below a minimum income standard but would be targeted at those on low incomes and would be means tested. A UBI would instead be for everyone, even if they are not on low incomes.

An MIG steering group has been set up by the Scottish Government to look at what an MIG would look like, legislative impacts and costings.

Chapman said: “UBI would be a real game changer and could have a transformative and positive impact on health and wellbeing, as well as in tackling poverty and inequality.

"This would be in stark contrast to the brutal inequality and the cruel and needless humiliation that is at the heart of the Tory approach to social security. 

“I hope that these trials are a success and that we are able to learn from them and use them to build a social security system and an economy that works for people and our communities."

On Clarke-Smith’s comments, Chapman added: "It is no wonder that Brendan Clarke-Smith is so opposed to genuine social security given he has backed policies that have plunged families into poverty while opposing free school meals and other forms of support.”

The National: Maggie Chapman said UBI could be a 'game changer' for tackling povertyMaggie Chapman said UBI could be a 'game changer' for tackling poverty

A BINS spokesman said: “If you're disabled, long term sick, a lone parent with young children, elderly, a care leaver, in dead-end jobs on poverty wages or wanting to start a small business or undertake further education or training then 'employment' isn't the answer.

“Combined with complementaty policies, basic income that is genuinely universal has been shown to address many of the issues of poverty, stigmatisation, hopelessness, mental health problems and alienation that afflict people and society.

“A basic income is affordable and necessary if we’re to eradicate poverty, achieve a net zero economy and create a society that is healthy, happy and satisfied. "

The trial in England will take place in central Jarrow in the north east and East Finchley in north London. Participants - who will be randomly selected from a group of volunteers - will be monitored to see what effects it has on their mental and physical health.

The trial is being run by think tank Autonomy and 20% of participants will be disabled. 

The pilot will also recruit a control group who will not get UBI, so researchers can compare the experience of people receiving a basic income with those not getting one.

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In 2020, more than 170 MPs and peers urged the UK Government to introduce a UBI to “give everyone the financial support they need to provide for themselves and their families” during the coronavirus pandemic.

The SNP’s social justice spokesperson David Linden said the MIG steering group is working to ensure a basic safety net for those on the lowest incomes, but the Scottish Government is operating with “one hand tied behind its back”.

Linden said: “A UBI has the potential to change people's lives and ensure that no one falls below a minimum standard of living. Unfortunately, due to callous Tory cuts and economic incompetence, millions of people are already falling below that standard.

"The Scottish Parliament does not have the power to set up a UBI, but the Scottish Government has created an MIG steering group to find out how it can use its limited powers to create a basic safety net to support those on the lowest incomes.

"The SNP Scottish Government has already introduced social security payments that have been described as 'game-changing' by anti-poverty charities, including the Scottish Child Payment, Best Start Foods and the Best Start Grant.

"However, the Scottish Government continues to act with one hand tied behind its back by Westminster and so the only way we can truly create a fairer, more equal Scotland is with the full powers of independence."