PROPOSALS to hand everyone in Scotland a basic, flat-rate income are an attempt to "euthanise" the working class as a political concept, a think-tank director has said.

Tom Kibasi, director of the left-wing Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), insisted the scheme was to the UK's economic problems "what snake oil is to medicine".

He argued it would mean "getting into bed with the billionaires" by letting capitalism off the hook and entrenching power inequalities.

It comes after Nicola Sturgeon pledged to fund research into a universal basic income (UBI) last year, with £250,000 set aside for potential pilots in four council areas. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has also said pilots could be included in the next Labour manifesto.

Mr Kibasi was debating the issue at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with economist and basic income campaigner Annie Miller and economist and journalist Stewart Lansley.

Ms Miller, co-founder of Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland, suggested every adult could be paid £162 a week. This would be funded by hiking income tax to at least 45%.

The IPPR previously said such a scheme would cost £20 billion a year in Scotland and would risk making child poverty worse.

Agreeing the economy is in crisis and in need of fundamental reform, Mr Kibasi said a basic income was seductive "precisely because it's a big idea, but the problem is that big ideas aren't necessarily good ideas".

He added: "My real objection to UBI is that it lets capitalism off the hook. It is giving in, it is embracing defeat."

He said the policy was widely supported by Silicon Valley tycoons such as Elon Musk, former Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg – as well as Richard Branson.

He continued: "In politics you always get strange bedfellows – that's absolutely the case. But if you're going to get into bed with the billionaires, you've got to ask yourself, 'Why are they in favour of it?'

"The reason is that UBI actually maintains unequal power relations."

He said introducing a basic income risked leaving 20 or 30 per cent of the population as a “dependent class”, and insisted it was “trying to attempt a form of kind of euthanasia for the working class as a political category and a political concept”.

Dismissing the idea as “magical thinking”, he argued money should instead be spent on building good homes, boosting the budget of the NHS or improving schools.

He also insisted UBI would "solidify and reinforce" gender inequality, because women would come under pressure to stay at home and look after their children.

He added: "UBI is to our economic problems what snake oil is to medicine."

Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and North Ayrshire councils are all considering basic income pilots.

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

Supporters deny the scheme is being held up as a "silver bullet" that will solve all of society's problems.

Ms Miller said UBI would help "emancipate" people and prevent poverty, and branded the current social security system “very cruel”.

But she said it would need to be introduced gradually to prevent disruption and allow the system to settle in.

She said UBI would live up to the four words engraved on the mace in the Scottish Parliament: justice, integrity, compassion and wisdom.

"I can't think of a better foundation for a society than a basic income, bringing about some of these changes that I hope will happen," she added.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are interested in any proposals to help reduce poverty and inequality.

"We have awarded £250,000 over the next two years to four local authorities developing work that seeks to better understand the impact of a citizen’s basic income – including costs, benefits and savings.”