Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Guardian: The Scottish pioneer whose plan for a basic income could transform Britain

The Guardian: The Scottish pioneer whose plan for a basic income could transform Britain

The universal basic income concept is so simple you are tempted to ask why it has never been seriously looked at before. It offers something for everyone across the political spectrum. It works on the premise that individuals are guaranteed a minimum regular payment unconditionally. Kerr, who worked as a postman for 14 years, acknowledges that much academic research and fieldwork must be done to calibrate payments appropriate to the needs of people.

"We, as a party, need to be ambitious for people and I think this can be a part of that. Nye Bevan is a great hero of mine, but I can’t imagine if he were around today that he would have created the benefits system the way it now looks. It’s time to ask if this has worked. This has been a 70-year experiment. It worked at the time when we had high levels of employment. But we don’t have that now. And although I’ll always strive for full employment, the reality is that as technology improves and increases, that’s going to be harder to achieve.

“This is a big challenge to the left. In these circumstances you can’t just write people off and nor can you have the current system that is hugely difficult to navigate and completely enslaves people to the state.”

Already, the Finnish government, as well as provinces in Canada and some Dutch cities, are looking at pilot schemes. Glasgow, however, would seem to offer an ideal petri dish for experimentation. The infamous “Glasgow effect” sees adult males in the city’s most deprived areas die significantly younger than those from other working-class UK cities with similar patterns of deprivation and health inequalities. Here a person can lose 20 years of life expectancy in a six-mile corridor from the east end of the city to its arboreal west end.

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