PILOT schemes aimed at handing every man, woman and child a basic, flat-rate income will be drawn up by four Scottish councils within the next year. 

Nicola Sturgeon pledged to fund research into a citizens’ income last year, with £250,000 set aside to see if the plan will work. 

Now Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and North Ayrshire councils have submitted a joint application to investigate taking the ambitious scheme forward.

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The document, seen by The Herald, shows they want to have their preferred options agreed by March 2019, before delivering initial business cases to the Scottish Government later that year. 

They will then be ready to begin their pilots in March 2020 – subject to a final decision on whether or not the proposals are feasible. 

The Herald:

Elected representatives from all four areas met for the first time at the end of last month to discuss the plans, which one estimate said would cost £12 billion a year if introduced across Scotland

Dr Louise Haagh, an expert in economic security and chair of the Basic Income Earth Network, said a citizens’ income would address “many of the flaws in current behaviour and means-tested systems”. 

But she insisted it was not a “stand-alone policy or magic solution to inequality or poverty”.

She said: “It is important to understand that the main benefit of basic income, which is to generate a basic sense of security within society, does not need an experiment to be considered important.” 

READ MORE: Nations that have pursued a basic income policy

Introducing a universal basic income – or citizens’ income – would see everyone, including children, entitled to an unconditional paycheque in place of the current work-related benefits system.

A figure of £5,200 per year for every adult has been floated in the past, but no firm plans have been fixed.

The Herald:

In their joint application, Edinburgh, Glasgow, North Ayrshire and Fife argue they have a “common interest in reducing poverty and tackling inequality, and the role that a basic income might play in this”.

All four councils have previously explored piloting a citizens’ income and are now being actively supported by NHS Health Scotland as they take their plans forward. 

But their application reveals it is possible each council will try out a different model, either focusing on a specific group – such as families, care leavers or lone parents – or geographical area, such as a single town or neighbourhood.

They are also on the hunt for a full-time “co-ordinator” to oversee the scheme, with a job description currently being written up.

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Scottish Conservative shadow social security secretary Adam Tomkins said the plans for a citizens’ income were well intended but “utterly unaffordable and unsustainable”. 

He added: “Not only will they cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions and drive up resentment, they will encourage a culture of benefits dependency, which doesn’t help anyone, harms aspiration and locks the most deprived and vulnerable people into a dangerous cycle.”

The Herald:

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We want to consider new and innovative ideas that could help tackle inequalities. 

“We committed in our programme of government to support the local authorities which are developing citizens’ basic income pilots so we can better understand the costs, benefits and savings such an approach could bring.”