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Guest Post: A Citizen’s Income for Scotland?

Guest Post by Annie Miller, Chair of the Citizens' Income Trust

In this post Annie talks about why we need a Citizen's Income, and how it could work in Scotland.

The Citizen’s Income Trust is a think-tank with the object of educating the public about the desirability and feasibility of a Citizen’s Income or Basic Income. A Citizen's Income is like a Child Benefit, but for everyone. It is based on the individual, (not the couple or household), is universal for everyone with the legal right to residency in the country, and is not means-tested. It is unconditional and non-selective.

citizen's income

Interest in the concept of a Citizen's Income has grown over the last two years, after seminar and round-table discussions were held at the Scottish Parliament and the House of Commons, and a conference in London. Recently, the Citizen's Income Trust has obtained management consultancy advice about how to move into a positive influencing mode, in addition to its think-tank role. You can find out more about the work of the Citizen's Income Trust by reading or downloading the Citizen’s Income Newsletter from their website.

On Wednesday, 22 July, Engender and the Women in Scotland’s Economy at Glasgow Caledonian University jointly held a workshop to discuss ‘A Feminist Citizen’s Basic Income?’. My approach was to define a Citizen's Basic Income and describe the objectives that it could help to achieve, including the ways in which it would advantage women in particular. These include that fact that a woman (or a man) would be emancipated from the status of ‘financial dependent’, and would be entitled to her own income. This would enable her to renegotiate her relationship with a wealthier partner for a fairer distribution of intra-household incomes and household tasks. Emancipation and empowerment would increase her options for life-time choices, about household formation, and about how much time she allocated to work-for-pay and how much to unpaid caring work.

A Citizen's Income could help to redistribute income from men to women. It would help to prevent, or at least reduce, income poverty, and provide financial security. It would also end the cohabitation rule. The larger the amount of the CBI, the greater would be the benefits. Other speakers approached the subject from the angle of what women need for complete equality. A Citizen's Basic Income provides a platform for a better life, but it is not a panacea for all ills, and other instruments are needed to reach some of the other goals, such as education and skills-training to help to get equal access to the labour market.

101 reasons for CI

Over recent months, I have been fortunate in having regular meetings with some people who work in the voluntary sector, in order to devise some Citizen's Income schemes in the event of full devolution of fiscal powers to Scotland. The concept is simple but its ramifications can quickly become complex and technical. A report on the outcome will be forthcoming later this year. In the meantime, Citizen's Income Trust’s Director, Malcolm Torry, has published a short, pocket-sized book, entitled 101 reasons for a Citizen’s Income: Arguments for giving everyone some money, (Policy Press Shorts, June 2015, £10, ISBN: 978-1-4473-2612-0), which is an excellent introduction to the concept. All royalties from the sale of this book go to the Citizen's Income Trust.

My fellow trustees have been encouraging me, as the only trustee residing in Scotland, to set up a sister organisation here, since the political landscape is very different. A steering group is in the process of preparing the documents. The new organisation will have similar objects and activities to Citizen's Income Trust and will be able to organise seminars, workshops and conferences, and encourage grass-root groups. If people in Scotland like the idea, then a petition can eventually be put to the Scottish Parliament to introduce a Citizen's Income here.

If you would like to be added to the mailing list for a network of people who wish to be kept in touch with developments regarding Citizen's Income Scotland, you can email Annie.

You may also be interested in the work of the Scottish Women's Budget Group who bring together women from across Scotland who have an interest in women’s equality and want to achieve better gender equality.

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