I’ve been delighted to chair the Minimum Income Guarantee Expert Group through our first year and to get to the point of sharing our progress through this interim report. The high-level shape of a Minimum Income Guarantee is beginning to come into focus. While we enter year two with a great deal of work ahead of us, we’re in a good position to deliver our full report in 2024.
For me, throughout the first year, one of the key questions that has come up time and time again has not been about the technical aspects of how a Minimum Income Guarantee could look. Instead, whether explicitly or in the background, the same question has been an ever-present:
how can we move more quickly to deliver big, positive change in Scotland?
This question has been a running thread throughout the work of the Expert Group and the Expert by Experience Panel.
The start of our work has coincided with an increasing cost of living emergency that, for many, has been unprecedented in scale. The organisations and individuals on the Expert Group, and on our Experts by Experience panel, alongside the organisations and individuals we’ve worked with, have seen greater pressures when it comes to their time because of the cost of living emergency. Thinking about long-term change is what we tasked ourselves with, but it has been all the more difficult to do as the here and now has become all the more unbearable for so many.
However, we know that the worse the emergency now, the more important it is to make sure it never happens again in the future. After all, the seeds of the cost-of-living emergency we now face were sown many years ago. It’s as clear as can be that our existing economy, social contract, and safety net are not adequate. They’re failing to deliver the financial security that benefits everyone through increased wellbeing, lower inequality and a stronger economy, that ensures we can all live a decent and dignified life.
The status quo is not working and something must change.
A Minimum Income Guarantee is a simple and yet potentially transformational idea. It’s the idea that we should set a level of income beneath which no one in Scotland will be allowed to fall. Through reforms to the world of work and social security, and by working to reduce peoples’ costs, we can deliver a dignified quality of life for all – a universal guarantee of financial security regardless of your income, your background, or where you live.
Our task now is to move a Minimum Income Guarantee from an idea to reality. To do that an increasing number of us must believe that change is possible, and those of us that want to see change happen, must work hard to make it a reality.
Optimism is necessary, even if it is not sufficient, for making progress.
We have good reason to be optimistic. At the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections the idea received cross-party support and the Steering Group includes representatives from all five political parties represented in the Scottish Parliament. In recent years we’ve seen progress in Scotland on protecting and improving the social contract and safety net in a number of ways and the Scottish Government are fully committed to delivering a Minimum Income Guarantee. From our work in our first year, we know a Minimum Income Guarantee does not have to wait. Progress can be made through existing powers, even if a full Minimum Income Guarantee may need further powers in a range of areas.
This interim report outlines our work over the last year, our findings so far, the key actions needed as first steps towards a Minimum Income Guarantee and what we plan to look at over the next year. In our 2024 full report we plan to outline what a full Minimum Income Guarantee could look like in Scotland, together with a clear set of first steps and next steps towards that, both within existing powers and within any potential additional powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
A Minimum Income Guarantee is an idea that can work whether in the context of devolution or independence. It is an idea that can learn the lessons of recent years, build on recent progress, and speak to Scotland’s future as a country leading the way to end poverty and the wider inequalities it creates, deliver fair work, and a wellbeing economy that benefits everyone. It is an idea that is right for now and one that can prepare us for the future.
We believe Scotland can move quickly to deliver big, positive change. If you do too, get involved and get engaged with our work to see what we can achieve together.
Russell Gunson, Chair of the Expert Group, Head of Programmes and Practice, The Robertson Trust
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