I declare my interest in universal basic income as set out in the register, and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on securing this debate. Today, we are discussing what “strategies” after the Covid-19 shock could
“contribute to a fairer, cleaner, and more sustainable economy.”
Greens on these islands have long been calling for a universal basic income to help us recover from the shock of austerity, privatisation and inequality that our economic model has delivered.
We have also been calling for the universal services to which the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, referred. Universal basic income would dramatically reduce insecurity, a huge driver of unsustainable consumption. The case has been further strengthened in this pandemic, with so many falling unfairly into desperate poverty through the conditionality of our current benefits system and emergency measures.
With great timeliness, the long-awaited report of the study group for Scottish universal basic income—driven from the grass roots up by the Fife, North Ayrshire, Edinburgh and Glasgow councils—has been presented today. The report concludes that a pilot, which would run for three years, could provide a better understanding of how a universal basic income could impact poverty, child poverty, unemployment, health and financial well-being. However, the report says that delivering it would require the UK and Scottish Governments as well as councils to work together. The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has expressed her “active support” for universal basic income.
Today the House has just made history by casting our first trial virtual ballot, bringing us into the 21st century while 19th-century queues form in the other place. I hope that we can also make history by seeing the noble Baroness the Minister promise for the Government to not get in the way of—and indeed, to actively facilitate—the exciting social innovation of universal basic income, and to take a world-leading role.