Cost and economic viability of implementing a Universal Income Basic Income : FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

"Any internal correspondence in the Scottish Government regarding a Universal Basic Income. (This might take the form of emails, attachments, typed or handwritten notes, letters, notes/records of phone calls, texts or instant messages, minutes, briefings or other).
Specifically, but not limited to, the cost and economic viability of implementing a Universal Income Basic Income”.


Some of the information you have requested is enclosed with this letter, however, while our aim is to provide information whenever possible, on this occasion we are unable to provide some of the information you requested as exemptions under the following sections of FOISA apply to that information:

  • s. 25(1) (information otherwise accessible)
  • s.30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) and (ii) (free and frank exchange of views)
  • s.38(1)(b) (personal information)

The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.


Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test

Exemptions under s.30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) and s.30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. Policy development around potential formulation of a basic income is ongoing. Consequently, information has been shared between officials and Ministers for the purposes of obtaining advice and guidance in the various stages of development.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is some public interest in release given the increased calls for a basic income in the UK at the moment. Even so, there is a greater public interest in high quality decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of decisions. This means, Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options, and debate those rigorously to fully understand their possible implications. Furthermore, there is also a greater public interest in allowing a private and safe space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers and other officials.

This private and safe thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered based on the best available advice so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest. 

Exemptions apply not subject to the public interest test
An exemption under s.25(1) (information otherwise accessible) of FOISA applies to some of the information requested. This exempts information from disclosure where the requester can reasonably obtain the information without asking for it under FOISA. It has a different focus from most other exemptions. It is not about withholding information from the public; it recognises that where information is already available, there is no need to provide an alternative right of access to it through FOISA.

This exemption has been applied to a final draft of a feasibility study into a Citizens’ Basic Income submitted to the Scottish Government by an research group ahead of its publication. The report, and its supporting documents, have now been published and are easily accessible at the following location:

An exemption under section s.38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. The personal information, including names and contact details of officials is their own personal information, and is therefore exempt under FOISA. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, thus, we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

FOI-202000034467 - Information released


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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