IAIN Macwhirter ("Universal Basic Income would just lead to increased poverty", The Herald, May 20) writes that "the benefits of automation should be spread by taxation, shorter hours and higher pay, not by creating a society of serfs living on a miserable stipend", but substantially shorter hours are incompatible with any jobs where people are valued by their experience or skill. A consultant surgeon simply will not be as useful if they have only worked half the time and gained half the experience. Today we would describe such a person as a trainee surgeon. So many people will still work long hours for even higher pay.

We can tax the rich, particularly the owners of the robots, but what do we do with the proceeds if not pay the unemployed a stipend? The challenge is to avoid making it miserable, but his article leaps from the same poverty level as Universal Credit (omitting that Jobseekers Allowance or even statutory sick pay is substantially lower than £100 per week), to average pay, without considering any of the points in between.

Giving everyone a benefit and then taxing the rich is apparently "a perverse form of redistribution", but Mr Macwhirter makes no mention of means testing the old age pension. Indeed, universal benefit and taxing the rich is the cornerstone of our health and education systems. Perverse would be taxing people more for working than we do for unearned income, or taxing large houses a smaller percentage of their value than small ones.

Ultimately if we live in a society where it is possible for someone to suddenly have no work for a week, even if they are employed, then we should not tolerate a situation where the employee doesn't get any benefits for the five weeks for the Universal Credit bureaucracy to catch up.

Alan Ritchie, Glasgow G41.

I AM very sorry to hear about Michael Collie's financial hardship (Letters, May 21). The Scottish Government has devolved powers to administer the Discretionary Housing Payments scheme to help with the kind of hardship Mr Collie describes. He should have been told about this by DWP staff. If an application for a discretionary payment is successful, the shortfall in rent could be addressed. May I also suggest a telephone consultation with Citizens Advice who may be able to suggest ways of managing on a low income.

Elizabeth Mueller, Glasgow G12.