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Greens renew calls for universal basic income

The Green Party has renewed calls for a universal basic income to be introduced in Scotland, claiming it is an idea ‘whose time has come’.

Speaking at an event organised earlier this week by the RSA and the Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector, the co-convener of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie, said there was an ‘urgent’ need for bold policies, such as a universal basic income.

The Green Party has a long-standing policy, calling for the introduction of a basic payment for everybody, coupled with progressive taxation.

‘What was called social security has been twisted over the years by successive UK governments that bullies people and traps them in poverty, even when they are working,’ said Mr Harvie.

‘A basic income would give people stability to look for work and balance that with any caring responsibilities.’

The Green councillor for Govan, Allan Young, added: ‘With high levels of poverty and inequality, it’s clear that current economic policies are failing many in Glasgow.

‘We need fresh thinking, and ideas which put power into people’s hands – ideas such as a universal basic income, which we have long called for.

‘A universal basic income could provide Glaswegians with the stability to pursue further education, care for loved ones and say no to exploitative zero hour contracts.

‘We are calling for Glasgow council, possibly in partnership with other councils, to establish a cross-party working group on UBI and trial a pilot scheme for the city.’

The director of external affairs at the GCVS, Liz McEntee commented: ‘Glasgow has been seriously affected by the changes to the UK benefit system; in fact we are the second hardest hit city in the UK.

‘This has exacerbated the already high levels of income inequality the city experiences, an issue which impacts seriously on quality of life, self-esteem, as well as the ability to live well and participate in society – often leading people to seek support from our member services and other organisations in the third sector, creating real capacity issues across the city.

‘We believe a system of universal basic income would go some way to alleviating the many equality issues our citizens face, preventing crisis while allowing the third and public sectors to concentrate on building people’s assets and supporting a fairer, more equal Glasgow,’ she added.

The conference was held in the same week that the American think tank, the Roosevelt Institute published a new report on the macroeconomic effects of introducing a universal basic income.

The report looks at three different models:

  • $1,000 a month to all adults
  • $500 a month to all adults
  • $250 a month child allowance

According to the report, the cost of introducing the child allowance across America would be $208 billion a year, while the $500 a month option would cost $1,495 billion and the $1,000 a month option would cost around $2,990 billion.

The report predicts the $1,000 a month option would permanently grow the economy by 12.56% to 13.10% by 2025 if it was financed solely by raising the federal debt.

It would also, they find, increase the number of Americans with jobs by about 2%, and expand the labour force to the tune of 4.5 to 4.7 million people.

‘If the macroeconomy behaves in a way that’s consistent with how it has in the recent past—and there’s every reason to believe that’s the best place to start— then enacting an unconditional cash transfer certainly wouldn’t harm it, and would probably do substantial good,’ the report concludes.

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