A hand up, not a hand out

While we’re all stuck at home, it’s a good time to think about how things need to change once we get through this emergency and come out on the other side of it. We’re constantly told that we’re all in this together by rich and powerful people whose actions and privilege make it very clear that some of us are in this far more than others.

There are many ways in which the effects of this crisis are being felt far worse by the poor, by working class people, by minority groups. We see it in the way in which we are told to avoid public spaces except for a very restricted set of exemptions, but it’s a lot easier to cope with that when you have private space – especially private outdoor space – of your own. There’s a world of difference in enduring this lockdown when you’re a couple with no kids or whose children have left the nest and you are lucky enough to have a four bedroom house with a large garden compared to a family of five sharing a two bedroom flat with no access to a garden. It’s a lot easier to cope mentally and emotionally with a lockdown when you can keep yourself occupied with work that you can do from home compared to losing your job, your income, and not knowing how you’re going to keep food on the table or a roof over your head.

Things need to change once we get through this travail. Society needs to change. After this crisis there needs to be a recognition that access to sunshine, fresh air, and natural spaces is a fundamental human right. These things are not luxuries, they are basic necessities for the healthy functioning of human beings. We need to start having a conversation about access to open spaces, about the need to ensure that all children are brought up in homes which have gardens, and above all in Scotland we need to start a conversation about land ownership.

However one obvious way in which society can change is through the introduction of a universal basic income scheme. A universal basic income would mean that all tax allowances, tax credits, and certain benefits would be abolished, and in their place the government would pay every citizen a set amount every month plus an additional amount for each dependent child. You’d be free to earn as much or as little as you choose on top of your UBI, and that income would of course be subject to tax – most likely at a higher rate of tax than is currently due. And of course, we need to ensure that the wealthiest amongst us pay their fair share.

The proposal will of course run into opposition from the usual suspects. You know, those people who live their lives in terror that someone somewhere might get something for nothing. They’re the kind of people who tweet that they’d give their lives for some notion of British patriotism, but who won’t give 10 pence to help out a starving child a few streets away. Their objections should be dismissed for the short sighted selfishness that they are. The scheme has been opposed by Iain Duncan Smith, so that all by itself ought to tell you that it’s a good idea. There are many advantages to a universal basic income. Society as a whole benefits, and those benefits far outweigh the possibility that the scheme might be abused by a few feckless individuals. At this juncture it’s worth giving a reminder that the amount lost to the state through benefits fraud annually is a tiny fraction of the amount lost to tax fraud.

The scheme would mean that everyone would have a guarantee of a certain level of income coming into the household. This would particularly benefit the many thousands of people who rely upon zero hours contracts, gig economy jobs, or who are self-employed. It would deliver some much needed financial certainty to the many thousands of people whose incomes have been devastated by the current crisis and who are experiencing a catastrophic loss of income or a severe reduction in the amount that they are able to bring into the household.

Because it would be a universal scheme, the administration costs should be lower than for a means tested benefit. The other advantage of it being a universal scheme is that middle class people would also benefit, the very people who are best able to organise, complain, and get a message of discontent through to the powers that be. That is what helps to ensure that the overall quality of the scheme remains high for everyone, including vulnerable and marginalised groups within the community who are typically far less successful in having their concerns heard at the highest levels. Because the scheme would entail the abolition of tax credits and allowances, it would more or less pay for itself. The extra cost to the state could, and should, be made up by increasing the amount of tax paid by the wealthiest and by those big businesses whose business models depend upon a flexible workforce.

The idea of a universal basic income scheme has been around for some years. A pilot project took place in Helsinki in Finland some years ago, and although it was deemed successful, the initiative seems to have stalled. The coronavirus epidemic has given new life to the proposal, as it appears an obvious solution to many of the problems thrown up by the current crisis. The Spanish government has announced its intention to introduce a basic income scheme, and other governments are reportedly considering the idea.

One of those governments is the Scottish one. The SNP has previously given its support to the idea of a universal basic income, although the idea has remained very much on the back burner until now. Ian Blackford recently called upon the British government to introduce such a scheme as a response to the coronavirus crisis. The problem for Holyrood is that it would require the cooperation of the British government if it wanted to introduce a universal basic income in Scotland, however the British government claims that it is unnecessary and that the temporary support measures that they are putting in place are sufficient. Once again, Scotland’s hands are tied by a government that we didn’t vote for.

This week Nicola Sturgeon welcomed a proposal from Progress Scotland to consider the temporary introduction of a universal income scheme for the duration of this crisis. That’s a good start, but the problems highlighted by this crisis need a permanent solution. We have all made sacrifices for the benefit of the public good during this crisis, that doesn’t mean that things must go back to the way they were once the emergency is over. A universal basic income scheme isn’t a hand out from the government, it’s a hand up for all of society.

And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…

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64 thoughts on “A hand up, not a hand out

  1. Scotland could be well placed to make Universal Basic Income a success. The motivations that fuel civic nationalism can easily drive civic activism. With a guaranteed income, lots of people who want to make a difference, can be freed up from holding useless, make-work jobs, and turn their talents to make life better for all. There are a million and one things that could be done but currently cannot because we don’t have the governmental or corporate structures or incentives set up to make them happen – everything from reading programmes for kids, cleaner beaches, tree planting, etc. etc. etc. could all be organised and given life by motivated citizens.

    In fact, I’d go further. Bring in civic activism as a prerequisite for public office. No career in politics for you unless you’ve been volunteering at the food bank, helping the homeless and picking up litter for a substantial amount of time. Create public service projects where people can learn about the problems of public services all without seeing the insides of a committee room. You’d have a much better world in pretty short order once you head down that path.

    • I wonder if there’s almost a case for certain types of political office to be carried out as a compulsory civic duty in the same way Jury Service is.
      Basically, the citizen selected performs a stint of government service for a set period before returning to regular life among their peers.
      Clearly detailed thought is needed to develop the concept but it would at least severely limit the possibility of careerist politicians, greasy pole climbers and those susceptible to buying by lobbyists.
      The fact that you are returning to your ain folk after a set period is a good incentive to do the job correctly and ethically.

      Got to be worth exploration by those who can test the practicalities of the idea.

  2. This may or not be the place to post this message but I refer to your comment a couple of weeks ago about Richard Branson and his c£120,000 PER DAY for 90 YEARS. At the time I thought that can’t be right and tried to calculate the sum myself. I have a regular desk top Casio Calculator and guess what? It did not have the capacity to do the sum. I had to use Excel. Today I revisited the issue having seen that the Billionaire Green is asking for a hand out to save Debenhams. I wondered how much interest RB earned on his 4Billion. At one percent interest RB earns c£109,000 PER DAY!!! Surely, this unearned wealth could contribute to the pot to help give the Hand Up. That is of course dependant on me getting my sums right – I just scraped by with Maths O Level!

    • After this crisis is over, people will expect and demand change. The political forces best placed to articulate that change will be the ones to benefit. In Scotland, that’s the independence movement – but it will only happen if we have a positive message of what that change can be.

      • Politicians come and go.
        People make change.
        We don’t ask, we demand.
        Universal income is
        The only way forwards.
        Whilst making sure companies do not exploit it by paying lower wages.
        It’s a no brainer.
        End the union.
        Onwards and upwards.

    • Normally I would agree, because I abhor distractions. But this one is different, and could well be the key that opens the door. An SNP and independence movement willing it, supported by widespread popular sentiment, and a distant Tory UKGov refusing to even consider it, could spring this whole thing wide open, after the current malaise has passed.

  3. Pingback: A hand up, not a hand out | speymouth

  4. An excellent piece, Paul. Your posts recently have been on fire- the holiday you took with your husband has obviously done you good and all I can say is – more power to your elbow.

    Waaaay back in the late 1970’s, my father, who was a player in the education field (and a Fellow of his Professional Body) attended meetings and conferences, the subject being ” What will people DO with all the leisure time that they are going to have in the future?”. Remember those halcyon days, when all we were worried about was the effect that mechanisation was going to have on our jobs?

    One subject that was discussed by these erudite chaps (and chapesses!) was what is now called a UBI. It all fell on deaf ears and in 1979, along came Thatcher.

    The simple truth is that 40+ years have now been lost to a dogmatic adherance to Randian-Freidmanite- Thatcherite neo-liberalism. My father, who was quite liberal (small “l”) in his views, will be birlin.

  5. The most important aspect of UBI is that it encourages and enables people to take up employment – at present the system is rigged to make it virtually impossible to take up short term employment with UBI it becomes feasible.

  6. Excellent piece again.
    Despite all Tory attempts to prevent UBI, they will soon be left with no option when the looting begins, this crisis is creating increasingly desperate people…

  7. One of the Canadian provinces trialled a Basic Living Allowance (BLA) scheme in the late 1980s for two years. The gave everyone over 18 y/o around C$1,000 per month, whether they were employed or not. Most people used it exactly as Paul described – as a hand up. Musicians, writers, artists – all sorts of creative crafts – all benefited greatly. As did the economy. Some seed, but most spent the allowance and everyone was happy. Gone instantly was the stigma of welfare payments. The money the province saved on administering the welfare system almost paid for the fiscal stimulus itself.

    Just think of the schadenfreude when issing all the DWP staff with P45s??

    In normal times, I would commend UBI absolutely – however at this moment, I think it would be far better to provide a Job Guarantee Scheme and employ everyone in the UK. Pay them a monthly salary an golden handshake – even if it were £2,000 a month for every adult, it would still be far cheaper than what the government is currently proposing.

    They are simply trying to save their own fortunes. What these MPs don’t quite accept or understand yet – is that the old economy is no longer there and we certainly ain’t going back to what they call “normal”. Trying to save the banks, markets and jobs just isn’t possible – or desirable. Saving people is.

    It’s important that th payments are equal. Those in work in essential jobs will deservedly receive much more. But for the likes of you, me and the Queen – we’re on the same bench.

  8. UBI…hmmm.
    If you had posed that as a system 20 years or so ago, I would have been outraged.
    Why should anyone get paid, through a tax system that I put a lot of (hard earned) money into?
    These days, I’m a lot more relaxed with the idea.
    I know there are people out there who will simply use this as a way of living without any effort.
    I would console myself with the thought that at least their families have a roof over their head, they have enough to eat and are not cold.
    Basic enough values for any society I would have thought.
    I view this as I view the abolition of the death penalty…….it’s a reflection of how we view our fellow human beings and it’s a reflection on how we treat our fellow human beings.
    Bad analogy, but the one that first springs to mind (I’ve had a few tinctures).

    • 20 years ago people could expect to get a proper job, to get holiday entitlement and sick leave and a predetermined number of working hours a week. Nowadays lots of people have to work in the gig economy or are self-employed or are on zero hours contracts. If companies want the flexible labour force that they demand, it’s only fair that they should be taxed in order to provide it and it’s not ordinary people who suffer as a result.

      • Indeed, it’s a different world today. Let’s get all these companies and corporations paying their fair amount in tax and providing a basic minimum wage. They can afford it.
        If they can’t……let them go to the wall. After all, that is how they treat their employees.

      • Time for a fundamental change in our tax system. No-one who is a worker, in paid employment, should have to pay tax. In effect, a tax on work. Let’s introduce the Tobin tax on financial transactions, investments and land. And also, perhaps, inheritance!!!

  9. Ha,

    So they have all this extra purchasing power that you have just given people.

    The only constraint on government spending are

    a) skills

    b) Real resources

    Not blips on a spreadsheet or how many assets you can swap at a central bank.

    So who is going to produce these extra goods and services that can absorb this extra purchasing power you have just given everybody.

    Now that you are giving people a decent wage just to sit at home.

    I bet They buy plenty of goods and services and use up a lot of real resources without putting any back.

    I can see an inflation problem that is just for starters.

    And it will keep capital in charge over Labour. That is why the capitalists like the idea so much. No competition for Labour when people are just sitting at home.

    why don’t you want governments to use there fiscal capacity to ensure there are enough jobs?

    Sunak has just showed how an independent Scotland will pay for it.

    UBI advocates ignore the dynamic efficiencies of full employment.


    The Job Guarantee wage is only paid to people working in Job Guarantee jobs. The more people on the scheme the more government spending. When they move to private sector jobs that payment stops — which automatically reduces government spending.

    It is an ‘auto-stabiliser’. Spending goes up when the economy is down, and spending goes down when the economy is up.

    It gets rid of the current automatic stabilizers that pays £72 when people lose their job with a job the next day On £370 per week. Full employment at all times.

    So because it is carefully targeted at only the people that need it, and it automatically self-adjusts based upon need, there is no requirement to correct any over spend via taxation on the other side.

    The result of that is straightforward. The current low tax rates can stay.

    Not only is it a brilliant automatic stabiliser it is a fantastic price anchor also.

    A crucial point is that the JG does not rely on the government spending at market prices and then exploiting multipliers to achieve full employment which characterises traditional Keynesian pump-priming.

    It works like any Monopoly price setter you set the price and let it float. See Saudis in the oil market for an example.

    Full employment, brilliant automatic stabiliser and a fantastic price anchor.

    The UBI addresses none of those problems.

  10. Flattening the curve – the Phillips curve that is


    How would a job guarentee work now Sunak has shown how to pay for it.

    Business is tight. Employer A hires Labourer B at the minimum wage. Employer A can then pile more and more work and hours on Labourer B because B’s alternative is the dole. So B ends up earning far less than the minimum wage for their hours while Employer A earns super-normal profits, or perhaps even normal profits in a downturn, when they shouldn’t.

    Hardly fair is it. We have a minimum wage for a reason.

    However that scenario only applies in a system that is systemically short of demand and has no alternative employers bidding for Labourer B. There are other scenarios over the business cycle. When you get alternative employers popping up, as you do in an expansion, you get the following:

    Business is good. Employer A hires Labourer B at the minimum wage. Employer A piles on the work. Employer C pops up, but doesn’t like the unemployed because they have no idea if they will turn up. Instead Employer C offers the minimum wage and promises faithfully to be nicer to employees. So Labourer B changes jobs, and Employer A is stuck because the alternative is unemployed people who they have no idea will turn up, let alone work the crazy hours now expected. Then Employer C piles on the work… Rinse and repeat.

    You’ll note the scenario is highly dynamically disruptive, yet this is the scenario that plays out pretty much every day in areas like the construction business. It is partially the reason why getting things completed is so difficult. The cultural dynamic is corrosive and workers walk off the job.

    Now let’s look at boom time:

    Business is really good. Employer A hires Labourer B at the minimum wage. Employer C pops up, doesn’t like the look of the unemployed and starts touting round their alternative offer at a higher rate. Labourer B asks for more money, or they’ll move. Employer A doesn’t like the look of the unemployed, because they have no idea if they’ll turn up, so agrees to pay more money because there’s loads of work coming in and charges accordingly.

    The unemployed buffer has little effect on the behaviour of business because it is a one way trap designed to frighten labour.

    Now lets replay those interactions with a Job Guarantee in place.

    Business is tight. Employer A hires Labourer B at the market determined minimum wage. Employer A can no longer pile on the work onto Labourer B because there is a guaranteed decent employer who Labourer B will move to if ill-treated. So Employer A has to keep the work at a reasonable level. Employer A now earns normal profits, and may move into a loss, while the worker earns the minimum wage.

    Surely that is how it should be?

    Let’s do the expansion phase:

    Business is good. Employer A hires Labourer B at the minimum wage. Employer C pops up offering the minimum wage and has the choice of Labourer B or new Labourer D currently with a track record of reliability on the Job Guarantee. Employer A would be happy to retain Labourer B but knows they have the option of Labourer D. Neither Employer A, nor Employer C can pile on the work, because the Job Guarantee is known to be decent. So both Employer A and Employer C get the labour they require at a fair deal and stuff finally gets done.

    And the boom phase.

    Business is really good. Employer A hires Labourer B at the minimum wage. Employer C pops up offering the minimum wage because they have the choice of Labourer B or new Labourer D currently with a track record of reliability on the Job Guarantee. Labourer B asks for more money. Employer A would be happy to retain Labourer B but knows they have the option of Labourer D so they turn the wage rise down. Labourer B can’t get any more money out of Employer C either for the same reason. Yet still neither Employer A, nor Employer C can pile on the work, because the Job Guarantee is known to be decent. So both Employer A and Employer C get the labour they require at a fair deal and stuff finally gets done.

    Importantly Employer Z will tend not to pop up and stay around because policy has been set sufficiently tight that the Job Guarantee buffer will not exhaust. But even if it did the Job Guarantee remains a credible threat to labour services in the private firms. Nobody can become a parasite business. Competition for labour would ultimately eliminate one of the other players, force their profits down to the new normal, or drive an innovation cycle (doing more with less). All of which leads to cheaper prices, not more expensive ones.

    A UBI just has people sitting at home consuming real resources. Things we can run out of.

    Which means fewer people are producing goods and services that everyone needs.

    This is why we say the Job Guarantee is a superior buffer. It promotes the same competitive response between the Job Guarantee buffer and private firms as there are between private firms where labour operates in a talent economy. This is because under the Job Guarantee, the workers can deliver a proven track record of engagement with the Job Guarantee, as opposed to a perception of inactivity on the dole.

    Makes Capital compete for Labour for the first time in nearly 50 years. if Capital don’t up their game they die those that do reap the rewards. That’s what capitalism should look like.

    = Improved productivity that lifts all boats.

    • The proposals put forward by Sunak so far are no more than a fig leaf covering exploitation, it places responsibility for delivery on financial services( they did really well last time, not) and the civil services ( decimated by cuts) and the private sector contracted to support their function. They create debt and the opportunity to asset strip which would include the family home. It will affect small businesses and lower income families, middle income ( mortgaged to the hilt and credit card and loan debt out of control) disproportionately as always. Only those with substantial financial reserves can survive. The numbers who are one pay check away for disaster are frightening.
      That is the reality, and its that reality we have to address.
      The future nirvana you propose is unworkable, their has to be jobs to start with, unless and until there is a written constitution which explicitly and unambiguously prevents any future government rolling back any reform.
      The same applies to a Universal income, but could be implemented immediately.

  11. The current proposals to get money to people during this crisis just aren’t going to work in the coming weeks. This should have been the policy from the start and to get a basic income to everyone with an NI number would have been the way to do it.

    I think it might still happen before this is over as I can’t see maybe a couple of million new claims for Universal Credit and all those self employed actually being paid out anything from government anytime soon. Then the shit will hit the fan when people are not only locked up during the day but skint and locked up.

    I heard Ian Blackford call for this in Westminster right at the start when questioning Rishi Sunak during the emergency budget speech, I do believe that this is the main way that a Scottish government would have ensured money got to everyone in Scotland during this crisis.

    After it’s all over it will need to be looked at again, will never happen though under a Tory government in Westminster, Scotland will need to be Independent first if this proposal is ever to be enacted. That much is certain.

  12. While I’m totally on board with a Universal Basis Income…..clearly there is at the very least a “floor” below which no citizen should fall!
    ( I think there used to be such a thing back when social security was social security and not welfare)
    What I can’t find is anything on “price controls” . …which I suspect would be essential…..to ensure that the value of the income,didn’t just fund corporations in the way Tax Credits do….
    The complexities of the “system” would transfer to business….and I’m perfectly fine with that….as….that’s exactly how it should be…
    But that’s exactly where the resistance will come from…!!!

  13. It is a pity that you hi-jacked the “LBJ” identity and attached it to the Prime Minister, Mr Boris Johnson. He is, indeed, a ‘lyin basturt’ and most peopl have known he is since he first appeared on the scene.

    The original “LBJ” was President Lyndon Baines Johnson of the United States, who is loathed by many ‘liberals’ because of the Vietnam War, which he inherited from President Kennedy and which he knew from the start that it was unwinnable, but the military industrial complex (identified by President Eisenhower) forced it to continue. The tragedy of Vietnam overshadowed Johnson’s “Great Society” project which was the other major plank of his presidency and the one which he most strongly wanted to see put in place. Johnson, at the time of his death was described as “The Last Foot-soldier of the New Deal”. In the 30’s he had been one of President FD Roosevelt’s great allies in the implementation of the projects which ended the Depression in the US and his Great Society was about taking this even further. Only FD Roosevelt passed more social and redistributive legislation than Johnson. It was he who first made public health care available in the US, he introduced huge amounts ofCivil Rights legislation, he started the ‘greening of America’, his Elementary and Secondary School Act with the slogan ‘No Child Left Behind’ was transformative and was copied by New Labour in 1997 for Sure Start. It was in this context that he coined the phrase, “A hand UP not a hand-out”, with which you have headed this piece.

    He was a flawed character, but his impact was markedly positive on the lives of many Americans, particularly the poor and the non-white. Every Republican President from Nixon through Reagan, both Bushes and now Trump has tried actively to reverse most of the reforms he put in place.

    It is a pity about your easy joke but the arrogance of affluent liberal Americans has prevented a proper defence of what he was seeking to do. Senator Bernie Saunders was trying to carry that torch on and the Joe Biden of decades ago was almost certainly a disciple of Johnson’s.

    • “Flawed character”?

      You can say that again.

      He did not inherit Vietnam War from Kennedy the pretext for the massive escalation of which was the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” occurring well after JFK’s assassination.

      He conspired (there’s that word again lol!) to cover up the truth behind the attack on the USS Liberty by Israeli forces during the six day war.

      As thoroughly nasty a bastard as ever soiled the oval office, and there’s been a few!

      • Politics has always been a very nasty business and there are few – if any – leaders of government, democratic or otherwise, who did not engage in sordid matters. And, given the power of the US, its Presidents and governing class, have almost all engaged in appalling acts, as have UK PMs, France, Russia/Soviet union, Germany, Italy, Japan,China, etc. And, behind them have been shadowy figures, such as industrialists who saw war, invasion, terror, genocide as ways of increasing their wealth.

        However, for the most of us, there were things which improved our lot, because those who seek to wield power have to build up some measure of support and have to distribute some goods and power more widely. There are periods when the majority or a large number of us are in periods of strength, mainly due to collective solidarity and things shift in our favour.

        There are, of course, many people of sincere principle, often, but not solely, from religious backgrounds (I am an atheist) who establish institutions, and laws, which provide order and reduce the scope for naked brutality.

        I think Johnson’s early years and the history of his family indicate that he did have sincere humane principles. But, he was also aware of how politics worked in the US and of the need to acquire power to be enable to get things done. He became a formidable political operator who by a variety of means, some pretty nasty, was able to get things done, which benefitted large numbers of people. On leaving college, for example, he went to work in a school for poor Hispanics on the Texas/Mexican border. One of his early political achievements was bringing electricity to the Texas ‘Hill Country’. He knew how to play pork-barrel politics and cut deals.

        Many of these left a very sour taste in the mouth, but, on the other side, Medicare and Civil Rights and Operation Head Start, etc benefitted millions in lasting ways. Even Trump has not managed to end Medicare and the addition of ‘Obamacare’.

        With regard to Vietnam he DID inherit it from Kennedy. As Vice President he opposed very strongly Kennedy’s and the Military’s plan to assassinate the leader of South Vietnam, Ngo Diem Dinh (who was a very nasty person). He predicted, rightly, that it would lead to worse. The recordings and archives indicate he realised very quickly that ‘The Gulf of Tonkin incident’ was the result of US Sailors panicking and firing on what was likely a shoal of flying fish. This panicked the North Vietnamese, who thought they were under attack and sent bots to engage the US vessel. It was a classic cock-up. However, given the mindset in the US and in the world generally, due to the Cold War, public opinion in America, meant he could not be seen to be ‘backing down’ and we got the subsequent tragedy. With regard to the incident in the Six Day War, similar sordid calculations applied.

        So Johnson has a lot on the debit side.

        The point I was attempting to make is that the condemning of President Johnson for military/international matters, has led to the legacy in social policy being neglected and ‘tainted by association’. The social achievements were formidable as were the political arguments and – yes – machinations – and have lessons for how we deal with the crisis in capitalism which we are in at the moment.

        The Blair/Brown governments of 1997/2010 had some significant social achievements in health and education and other aspects. But, like Johnson, these are overshadowed by the shameful involvement in Iraq and other military interventions and, not only did Labour lose power, but the social/democratic case has struggled to find an audience. (I include Scottish independence in the ‘democratic’).

  14. I would leave this to the experts

    Since Sunak has just proved that MMT economists were right all along.

    Pick any paper on the job guarentee any one will do……


    It is by far superior than a UBI in a dozen ways and takes power away from capital and puts it into the hands of Labour for the first time in 50 years.

    Solves the inflation problem.

    But I guess you will support the SNP regardless follow them like sheep.

    Thank God we were not trapped in the EU fiscal rules during this virus. Just ask Italy.

    The Euro’s fatal flaws have been exposed — and it will take historic action to save it


  15. I mean society can’t even agree what child benefit should be.

    With those with no children up in arms about it. What is it now 5p a month ?

    Good luck with your UBI it will be a stipend and get less and less every year it has been introduced. Just like child benefit.

    Millions will vote against it as they go out to produce the goods and services everyone needs whilst others sit on their arse, consume real resources and produce nothing.

    Good luck you are going to need it.

  16. When the UBI starts causing bottle necks and inflationary pressures everywhere and pensions get slashed.

    Because pensioners purchasing power is always first to get slashed when there is a shortage of goods and services to consume. They are seen as collateral damage.

    Don’t say we didn’t warn you………..

    • Would seem to make sense if a UBI was the same as the level of the pension, if it was enough to live on then who would lose out? Those that wanted to work and could find employment would get it. The income from their job would be on top of their UBI so there is still an incentive to work if more is what you want or need.

      Let’s say 40 years ago it took a factory of 10,000 workers to make 100,000 cars a year and due to automation, now in 2020 it takes 1000 workers to make 100,000 cars a year. The value of the finished product is the same but there are 9,000 unemployed workers.

      If they can’t find jobs should they be left to their own devices?

      • If these mythical auto workers were left to their own devices then you have 9000 less potential car buyers. Products can only become scarce on be in demand if there are customers. Make 90% of the population unemployable then there is no longer much demand.

        I’m sure it is complicated, but there is a certain common sense that I can see behind a UBI.

        There are many a brain and thinker much better than I that have argued this case before. Let’s put it this way, I believe that putting a pound in a poor man’s pocket is better than putting it in a rich man’s bank account.

        There is no such thing as “trickle down” as espoused by Thatcher and Regan, we tried that and it was a failure. Let’s try something else and directly put the money where it’s most needed, one thing we do know is that money has to be put to use but the great amount of money floating around in the world today is NOT put to any productive use at all for the benefit of all.

        • UBI is definitely the way forward, the current economic model is collapsing round our ears, the establishment may well see the current pandemic as the last great hurrah in transfer of wealth from the poor to the already obscenely rich. Sunak ‘s thoughts on the way forward being touted as credible is frankly laughable. His reported opinion on England leaving UK is telling, since he believes that England should do so to ‘maximise profits’.
          UBI does offers choice to the individual in lifestyle choices, shared jobs etc. Farming would be a major benefactor, we need to encourage people into the farming industry stopping the trend towards super farms and corporate control.
          Stay safe.

  17. Twenty years ago plans were being laid for the Middle East to be blown to bits. 2002. Costing $Trillions worldwide. The banking fraud was on going 2008. Costing $Trillions worldwide. Thatcher laid the ground. Deregulating banking worldwide. Illegally and secretly taking Scottish resources.

    The Westminster appalling policies are costing £Billions/Trillions wasted. Ruining the Scottish economy. Everybody would be better off if Scotland was Independent. They are building enough houses in Scotland for everyone.

    UK Gov pensions should be reformed. A higher payment made to cut administration costs. The administration costs more than the pay out.

    The Finland scheme did not work. They are well off anyway. A high standard of living. One of the best in the world.

  18. My dear departed old man had a saying that has always stayed with me. It was his view on wealth and greed, he would say “you can only eat two chickens a day”.

    I know now exactly what he meant.

  19. Just for the moment going to post a link to a site and group who work towards and for the idea of UBI in Scotland. I went to one of their meetings in Edinburgh last autumn, very interesting and great bunch of people speaking and attending. They meet in Glasgow too. I hope to attend again once this crisis is ‘over’.

    They have a blog work checking out.


  20. How short are our memories? We watched with horror at the rising death toll in Italy and imagined the pandemonium that must have been going on there. We were confused.

    “A further 980 people in Britain who had contracted coronavirus lost their lives in the 24 hours before Thursday evening, health officials announced on Friday.

    It is the United Kingdom’s worst single-day death toll since the outbreak began, and eclipses even the very worst days suffered by either Spain or Italy, the country worst hit by the deadly virus.

    And the daily rate of deaths is still expected to rise yet higher for several days to come, said officials. The country’s coronavirus death toll now stands at nearly 9,000 – the fifth-highest in the world.”


    • Someone once said that human history is nothing but repeating patterns.
      Events might look different, involving different groups and individuals, but ultimately, we keep being dragged blundering into the same mistakes over and over again.

      The majority either forget the lessons taught by history, or simply refuse to remember because they’re programmed to slavishly follow those who benefit from the situation, thinking they’ll keep their comfortable lives and don’t care what happens to anyone else.

      Maybe this is what anthropologists called ‘the selfish gene’. Not my area of expertise really. I’m just good at spotting patterns.

  21. Spain population 50million

    Italy pop 60 million.

    Different healthcare systems. Less after care. Families, friends look after people. Rather than the healthcare system. UK has more social care.

    UK pop 67million

    Percentage % death rate.

    Countries with a higher pop nos. Would be expected to have a higher death rate (nos) by comparison. Especially those with higher % no of elderly people. Some people would have died in any case. A few months later?

    50,000 people die in Scotland a year. The elderly on average.

    The average life expectancy (norm) in every country by comparison.

    Spain has a high life expectancy rate. 80 yrs males – 85 females. 3rd highest? in the world. Better lifestyle. Diet and climate.

    Still scary. Precautions needed.

  22. Life expectancy Japan 85 years. World Highest.

    Life expectancy US 79 years.

    Spain life expectancy 80 year.

    Females often outlive men on average.

  23. US population 260million. UK pop 67million.

    2000 deaths in the US. Equivalent (approx) 500 deaths in UK. For comparison.

    Lower death rate % in Scotland than the rest of the UK.

  24. I believe there was a town in Canada that tried UBI in the 70s for a couple of years. They saw a dramatic drop in crime and illness which itself helped to fund it but the government changed and it was scrapped.
    I would love to see it happen, not least because of the precarious place our business is in at the moment. However, the opposition of the corporations – who would have to start paying decent wages to prevent staff leaving – will probably prevent it ever happening.

    • Very pertinent, I believe this is standard in corporate Japan, though it doesn’t address the problems of the self employed, the very poorest or zero hours contracts, but I think there is definitely a good case for it run in conjunction with UBI.

    • Yep – mentioned the Canadian trial in the post above, however I omitted to say why it failed.

      Despite the many social and economic benefits, the BLA scheme was withdrawn after 24 months after huge migrant influx into the province – and as it relied on government funding (much like the SG) – the costs became unsustainable.

      Of course, with what we now know about money creation – that now wouldn’t be an issue to a progressive country with its own currency, but unless the scheme was global – the the migrant influx would still be an issue. Imagine Scotland being independent with its own Pund and providing a BLA of £20K p/a for every adult?

      The M74 and A1 would be rather busy in the northbound lanes…

  25. There are lots of ways to improve equality. You mention UBI. Another way (could run alongside it) is Wage Ratio Legislation (in any organisation the person at the bottom must earn at least a given percentage of the person at the top). This is better than Minimum wage as it gives the CEO who sets the salary structure a selfish interest in keeping up the wage of the cleaner. Unlike Minimum Wage they can’t use the excuse of it cutting jobs as it’s about sharing out the same cake and unlike Maximum Wage it doesn’t suppress endeavour. A few years ago I got an agreement to look at this issue passed unanimously at SNP Conference The Scottish Govt could already practise this in the public sector (and in some areas does) but in the private sector it’s reserved to the UK Govt.
    You mention land ownership. Another resolution I got through SNP Conference a couple of years ago was one to “look at” (baby steps!) taxing unproductive land. Maybe through Annual Ground Rate with different rates for urban, farm, forest and moorland areas. This could be done once the Land Registry is completed and it’s established who owns what land.
    The eternal problem with establishing radical structural change is apathy and hopelessness at the bottom and self-interest at the top.

    • On a related note, I think some strengthening of “whistle blowing” protection might not go amiss and I’ve seen a suggestion elsewhere that I think has some merit.

      Change the law such that if you whistleblow on what your company is doing and it’s proven, then the company in question has to purchase an index linked annuity that will pay you whatever you where earning from working from them for the rest of your life. (Obviously if the company lacks sufficient assets to do this, then the board of directors are jointly and severally liable to make up the difference!) So you can still be a scumbag company and you can employ scumbags who will do things they shouldn’t, but now they’re going to be incentivised to inform on you!

  26. Tom Harris ex labour/ Tory really is a twat. This morning on radio scotchland the worst thing that is happening to him with the current situation is his local Chinese restaurant is closed. No problems his wife is a superb cook. What is it with labour exes that are so far up their backside. As an aside how quick Shereen obe? / cbe? Ended the conversation about Prince Charles, COVID free flight to Aberdeen. Strange that she spent a good wee while on Dr Calderwoods resignation in a prepared piece for the bbc.

    Such a load of manure in one small programme.

  27. Poated this elsewhere, but it seems germane:

    “…One of my boys is sitting at home because the construction industry is in lock down. Were he an employee he would be getting circa 80% of his income paid into his bank account. Because he is self employed there is, either a delay or a lack of intent, to pay that money now, when it is most needed. Perhaps, some day down the track, the government may treat them equally.

    I assume that that is not the case. They will find an excuse to treat independent folk differently. Same as it ever was.

    Just saying…”

    • Sorry to hear that about your boy, I’m afraid that this government have underestimated the number of workers that will g=fall through the cracks of the schemes they have set up and your boy is likely to be but one of millions.

      The hairdresser that rents a chair in her local salon or the part-time taxi driver and others like them are going to have to wait a while to see if they can get anything at all. For far too many, there is unlikely to be any compensation at all and it will be Universal Credit as the best they can hope for until we get over this crisis.

      17 million Americans have claimed unemployment benefit in just the last 3 weeks, Trump though is planning to send out cheques for $1200 to every citizen that filed a tax return and I guess that is something. I can’t help thinking though that in the UK there is shortly coming severe hardship for a great many people since the system will not be able to cope with so many new claims in time to arrange payment to those that need it.

      I hope our media, politicians and bodies such as trade unions create a great stink about this if it does come to pass and this government is forced into action.

  28. Another side affect of every one on a basic wage, has also to be considered,
    If people are not worked all day for a pittance and long hours that include travelling great distances for work , and pensioners are treated equally as human beings, a change in society happens, the mental wellbeing is greatly improved,
    Everyone mentions the abused that have or are maybe suffering at this moment in time due to coronaviras inforcing close living. And I do feel strongly for those people and children whom have to deal with this right now. I used to be one of them.
    However I have noticed a mental change in the family units in the village where I live, mothers and fathers are not only taking their children out for exercise with them, but are holding conversations while their out and about,
    no longer the lone jogger or lone dog walker, the lone cyclist or even the lone mountain climber, but a family.
    I have noticed people checking that the elderly around them as neighbors or family are looked after.
    When the stress of the modern way of working, travelling and living is halted, many things change, including less cars on the road.
    I personally could see UBI changing more than poverty.

    • Yes, I agree James. But this will only happen if we are prepared to leave the old ways behind – the things media and politicians refer to as “normal”. The economic system, rules & regulations, wealth inequality, greed and “national interests”. The latter is all encompassing – security & intelligence services, military interventions, WMDs, resource exploitation and our very own gem – the offshore banking system.

      We have acquired so much toxic baggage that we urgently need to discard if we are to move lightly in this new world of ours. That baggage is still dictating the pace and direction of this journey, but it really no longer applies.

      Take with you all the good things you have learned but never, ever forget those that brought you to this place.

  29. Because I am attracted to any idea that might contribute to fairness and common decency – ie civilisation – I like the idea of UBI. However, experience tells me that it wouldn’t be allowed to work in the interests of the vulnerable.

    Even one person living in fear and abject poverty is too many. But there will always be some unfortunate souls for whom that is their life. That is because a whole myriad of social factors, including the economic system in place at any point in time, combine to disable them. Sadly, in my experience, luck is by far the most important of these factors.

    That does not lead me to think that ideas like UBI are irrelevant.

    Widespread discussion and exploration of such ideas helps to clarify what is important in life and what should be our general direction of travel. Our achievement of Scotland’s independence will ultimately depend on the increased social awareness and understanding of Scotland’s population. It is that which will also move people to find ways to create a more equitable and more caring Scottish society. The two goals are inextricably interlinked.

    The converse operates amongst the Brits. They are opposed to independence and opposed to creating a more equitable society.

    The Brits will make a killing from this pandemic. It is what they do and they will not volunteer change. Whether they will radically destabilise their nasty regime in the process remains to be seen.

    • Then it’s very simple. They won’t be allowed. Nor will the economic system ever discriminate or penalise those in society who have nothing. A hundred days ago that was maybe a million or two i the UK – but now it is everyone. Hard lessons are being learnt – particularly in the affluent middle classes. The homeless and benefit claimants don’t really know any different – aside fro the health risks – but the two-income, two-car high-spending households are discovering just how brutal and cruel our economic ‘principles’ have been for many of their fellow citizens for decades.

      If we are lucky, it will only be the virus doing the killing – but there is a growing anger at the incompetence, negligence and corrupt self-interests of governments all over the world. It won’t take much more before the landscape changes.

  30. Mark Russell,

    Beautiful post.

    If I may add my agrrement, particularily about your last phrase?

    “…there is a growing anger at the incompetence, negligence and corrupt self-interests of governments all over the world. It won’t take much more before the landscape changes.”

    I do hope so.

    • I share that hope.
      I think some kind of siesmic social shift is breaking upon us; perhaps ultimately as massive as the Industrial Revolution was.
      Perhaps even as profound and far reaching as the change from hunter/gathering to farming.

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