Universal Basic Income

Scotland – in the House of Commons on 28th April 2021.

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Photo of David Linden David Linden Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

What recent assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of trialling a universal basic income in Scotland.

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Government Whip

The UK Government’s approach to welfare is to recognise the value and importance of work, make work pay and support people into work, while giving extra help to the most vulnerable in society. On that basis, we consider that a universal basic income is fundamentally the wrong approach.

Photo of David Linden David Linden Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I know that he is committed to devolution and the respect agenda and would want to take very seriously the outcome of the election result in Scotland. Given that all the main parties in Scotland—representing 80% of Scottish voters—except the Conservatives have indicated support for trialling the concept of UBI, does the Minister accept that if indeed those parties are elected in the next Parliament, there will be a mandate and going ahead with trials would just be a matter of respecting devolution?

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Government Whip

I make two points in response to the hon. Gentleman. First, if he looks around the world at where UBI has been trialled—in Finland and Canada, for example—it has not been a success. Indeed, the Finance Minister in Finland has scrapped it and is instead looking at something along the lines of our universal credit system. Secondly, the Scottish Government already have substantial powers over welfare.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury)

Although I share the determination of David Linden for a universal basic income as the way ahead and his disappointment that it is not being trialled in Scotland, does the Minister share my disappointment that the SNP Government at Holyrood were not able to get their processes in shape in time to adopt the powers over welfare in the Scotland Act 2016 that might have given them more influence over the situation?

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Government Whip

I certainly agree with the hon. Lady’s point that the Scottish Government still have much to do to unlock the full potential of the powers devolved to them in the Scotland Act 2016. We are committed to working closely with them to allow them to implement those powers. It strikes me that the separatists are always quick to demand more powers or more money to shift the blame away from their failures in office on delivering on the issues that matter to the people of Scotland.