By Hannah Rodger

TWO thirds of Scots support the introduction of universal basic income, according to a new poll.

Research and consultancy firm Mark Diffley asked more than 1000 people if they supported or opposed the idea of a basic payment with 67% agreeing it should be introduced in Scotland.

It comes after the First Minister said earlier this month that discussions around universal basic income (UBI) between Holyrood and Westminster should be a top priority.

Nicola Sturgeon said that the coronavirus pandemic and the economic damage caused by it "have actually made me much, much more strongly of the view that it is an idea that's time has come".

Under the scheme, residents would be given a payment from the government regardless of whether they were working or not, and some benefits would be scrapped.

In 2017 the Scottish Government introduced four pilots in Glasgow, Fife, Edinburgh and North Ayrshire to determine if the measures were feasible, and a final report on the outcome is due to be published next month.

The latest survey was designed by Mark Diffley, conducted using online panel Scotpulse and commissioned by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) charity.

The RSA has previously argued that a basic annual income of £2,400 for adults and £1500 for children could eradicate extreme poverty in Scotland, however critics say it could encourage people to be irresponsible or lazy.

According to the study conducted in March with 1,041 people, more women agreed with the idea than men while more east coast residents supported it than those living in the west or north of the country.

They were asked: "Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, some people have repeated calls for what is known as a ‘Universal Basic Income’ to be introduced in Scotland. This would mean that all individual adults in Scotland would receive a regular income to cover basic needs, paid regardless of their working status and income from other sources. To what extent do you support or oppose the principle of paying the ‘Universal Basic Income'?"

Of the 535 women asked, 71% agreed strongly, or tended to agree, with the introduction of basic income, while 63% of 506 men said the same.

Geographically, 71% of people surveyed from the east of Scotland supported it compared with 66% of west coast residents and 61% of those who live in the north.

Those aged between 35 and 54 were more likely to support the introduction of universal basic income, with two-thirds (66%) of people surveyed in that age group agreeing with the idea.

Within the same age group, 11% said they opposed UBI, 11% said they were neither opposed nor supportive of its introduction, and 12% said they didn't know.

The age group with the largest number of people opposed to the idea was the over-55s, with 16% of those asked within this category saying they would tend to oppose, or were strongly opposed. In this age group 12% of people had no opinion either way and 9% didn't know what they thought about it.

Jamie Cooke, head of the RSA, said that basic income "offers the chance to respond to the current crisis" and "create a new foundation for a reinvigorated social contract for the future".

Mark Diffley, founder of Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research, said: "The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated interest in and discussion around the issue of Universal Basic Income. New polling evidence now suggests that the majority of Scots support the principle of UBI, with two-thirds either strongly supporting (36%) or tending to support (31%) the principle. At the other end of the scale, just 12% of Scots oppose the principle.

"What is striking is that support is broad across the population, including across all age groups and those from different social class backgrounds.

"This poll does not point to unequivocal support for UBI but does lend support to those promoting this significant policy change, and point to the need for a more detailed national conversation on the issue."