Glasgow: Soon To Be A City of the Future?

The Council has taken big steps in the trial of a universal basic income.

Glasgow is known for its experimental, ‘people-orientated’ culture, and it now looks as though this image will spread to its economic approach to welfare. The City Council has just approved a feasibility study about the introduction of the pioneering concept of a universal basic income. Following the lead of trial studies in the Netherlands and Finland, the conference to be held later this year would see a collaboration of basic income experts, councilors, community groups members, and other representatives from the public and private sectors to investigate what form universal income would best take in Glasgow.

With its roots in the 16th Century humanist philosophy, universal basic income as an idea has been around for a long time. Mostly regarded as a utopian, unattainable ideal, it proposes ‘unconditional, regular payment’ to all and would replace current welfare systems. Proponents see a multitude of benefits: it would cut welfare bureaucracy, reduce poverty, simplify the tax system (any money above the universal basic income could be taxed), promote social inclusion and allow people to re-educate or change career directions without the looming threat of poverty.

The idea is gaining popularity: pilot projects in Africa and India have already showed promising results, Corbyn claims he is considering to integrate it in the Labour manifesto, the SNP voted in support of it at their spring conference. Some maintain their neoliberal ideals and argue that a universal basic income would breed a lazy society and give public funds to those already rolling in money.

Yet as a pilot project, this would be testing the ground, making mistakes and learning from them in order to build a more successful model. The old model of neoliberalism appears to be failing: the struggling welfare system of the NHS and the 2008 financial crisis are some of a myriad of examples. And as Kerr says, ‘if there is ever a case to be made then you need to test it in a place like Glasgow, with the sheer numbers and levels of health inequality’. Labelled the most deprived area in Scotland and believed to have a third of its children living in poverty, the shocking situation in Glasgow calls for innovation, radical change and an investment into a brighter future.

[Kirsty Campbell]

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