By Bob Gillespie And John Rogers
Creating a People’s Plan for Glasgow means going for radical changes on a broad front. A catalyst for making these changes could be Universal Basic Income (UBI) because it can be part of a caring economy which facilitates the radical changes needed to make life in our city better.
UBI is a way of providing income security for everyone through regular payments (weekly or monthly). This is provided for everyone as a right and is not based on current employment or income. It is akin to a Social Dividend from the Common Good (income generated from the economy as a whole to which we all are entitled to a share). Research shows it can be afforded and in fact can pay for itself. It is simple to administer, and cheaper than the current welfare system.
It replaces the current social security system which has been described as ‘ugly, coercive and dehumanising’. It would eliminate food insecurity, and offer us all a secure income base on which to plan for our lives and make choices about what we really want to do. It improves general wellbeing and will go a long way to eliminate poverty. As such it has attracted interest from cities all over the world, not least because it fosters social cohesion and encourages new small businesses, while offering personal freedom for creativity or voluntary work while acknowledging the role of carers.
The pandemic has shown us all how so many of us live ‘on the edge’ of debt and destitution, where income has been insecure but housing and other bills remain constants. The welfare system is clearly not fit for purpose. The work environment of the gig economy, the general insecurity of jobs, and the impact of technology all contribute to a different world of work in the future. So we need to plan for this and prevent people from becoming destitute. UBI can be one way of providing income security for all. The same can be said for food insecurity which has become a huge problem, with Food Banks proliferating. Food should be a basic right—simply because we are alive.
Glasgow’s record on health is very poor. Life expectancy in the economically deprived areas is up to 10 years less than those in affluent areas, while the incidence of mental health problems has increased greatly since the start of the pandemic. Again, UBI, by providing income security can contribute to better mental and physical health.
UBI is not the whole answer. We still need to address housing, childcare costs and the impact of disability. We also need to address the needs of young people, of women living in abusive relationships, those living on the streets, and the migrant population. But UBI does provide a base from which to plan income distribution, while putting our People’s Plan into reality.
The SNP proposed in their 2021 manifesto ‘to begin work to deliver a minimum income guarantee which ensures everyone has enough money to live on, but gives additional support to those who need it such as childcare or disability’. It does not sound like this SNP proposal will happen any time soon, but a lot of work has been put into what UBI can be: we don’t need to wait. UBI could be implemented quickly through the tax system. Let’s not wait to address the problems of poverty and poor health Glasgow has endured for so long. Let’s get started now!
The People’s Plan is an exciting prospect. UBI can be part of that excitement. Let’s go for that new Glasgow.