George Kerevan MP: SNP could begin laying ground for citizen’s income


Compass think tank calls for SNP to show leadership in buliding cross-party support for “transformative” policy

SNP MP and former economics professor George Kerevan has said that the SNP can begin laying the ground for a Scottish citizens income, even though the Scottish Parliament currently lacks the powers for full implementation of universal payment.

Kerevan made the comments after attending the launch of a new report by the Compass thinktank on the feasibility and use of the universal, unconditional benefit payment, also called ‘basic income’.

Speaking to CommonSpace after the launch, Kerevan noted that the SNP had adopted support for a basic income, and said: “Turning this [basic income] into a reality requires full control over the welfare system and the economy in Scotland, which means independence.

“But in the immediate future we could proceed to develop a citizen's income by stages.

“The goal is twofold. First, to simplify and humanise the welfare system by eliminating the complexity and means-testing of the current UK model.

“Second, a citizen's income approach deals with the coming massive crisis in the labour market that will result from artificial intelligence systems ejecting huge numbers of people from employment.”

Read: Labour considering universal basic income as part of ‘new economics’ agenda

The SNP’s conference in March endorsed the idea of a basic income, with the party agreeing to explore the idea further.

Advocates of the basic income claim that it can replace an outdated and cumbersome welfare system and also shield people from increasing precariousness of work and pay in the modern economy.

The Compass report recommends an introductory level of basic income which would be at a similar level to unemployment benefit but would be a non-conditional payment, not subject to sanction or withdrawal.

It would only replace a few benefits and would be augmented by housing, disability and other major payments, thus falling short of the ultimate aim of a citizen’s income-based welfare system, but would stamp the principle of universality at the heart of social security.

Neil Gray, SNP MP for Airdrie & Shotts and a member of the SNP’s Westminster ‘social justice team’, spoke at the launch of the report, as did shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Compass director Neal Lawson told CommonSpace that he welcomed SNP involvement in the policy, and agreed that steps could be taken immediately to prepare for its implementation

“There’s a range of things the SNP can do. They can wait for full powers for implementation. Or the Scottish Government can start looking into some trials.

“It could do that fairly soon if it wants to.”

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Lawson said that the policy was an opportunity for the SNP to show “leadership leading to partnership” in drawing together an alliance around the policy.

“An issue as big as basic income gets the labour party, the SNP and the green party in the same room together.

“So it provides a backdrop to a potential future progressive alliance. It is a good carrier for that idea and stresses that we can’t win without doing this together.

“It’s a big transformative economic and social policy platform that can be organised around.

“This [policy] must resonate strongly in Scotland, which has faced the ravages of de-industrialisation and the loss of traditional industries as much as anywhere else.”

Lawson recently called on the SNP to play a role in constructing new progressive alliances in a British political system he said was facing a crisis of representation, with changes to the electoral system likely to benefit continued Conservative dominance at Westminster.

Picture courtesy of the SNP

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