Minimum Income Guarantee Steering Group: foundation principles covering note - December 2021 meeting paper

Paper one related to the December meeting of the Minimum Income Guarantee Steering Group.

The Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) foundation principles paper, as provided for the Expert Group meeting of 9 December 2021, is set out at pages 2 to 5 of this document.


At the October meeting of the Expert Group, members agreed that as they developed their working groups, it would be important to have a common understanding of the high-level principles that underpin a MIG. The attached paper was therefore developed, drawing on various sources, for example the Scottish Government’s 2021-22 Programme for Government statement, the report of IPPR Scotland, and themes emerging from discussions already taking place in the group. The principles developed are intended to be adaptable to future identified needs, and may be consulted upon and tested with the experts by experience panel once recruited.

The Expert Group discussed this paper at their meeting of 9 December. They broadly welcomed the principles set out, but had a number of comments and suggestions for improvement. These centred around the following themes:

  • More emphasis on MIG being achievable and implementable;
  • Consider more positive and ambitious terminology – e.g. a decent rather than basic standard, ‘dignity and respect’ to tie in with Social Security Scotland;
  • Be more clear about what type of inequality and insecurity a MIG should tackle;
  • Be more clear about whether a MIG can be for all in Scotland;
  • Be more explicit on unintended consequences;
  • Be clearer about whether MIG is a single payment or a suite of interventions;
  • Consider whether it should be defined as a minimum standard of living or a minimum income.

Proposed next steps

The paper will be revised to reflect the discussion of 9 December, and Expert Group members will be invited to comment, with an aim to finalising the paper as workstreams get underway, so it can inform the work of the workstreams.

Strategy Group consideration

No decisions are required of the Group at this stage. Subject to points outlined above, the Group may wish to consider whether foundational principles are an appropriate tool for shaping wider work on MIG and, if so, whether the purposes and criteria leading to these proposals are clear and they provide a reasonable working basis for further development. The Group may wish to ask the Expert Group to explain how the principles will be used to inform wider communications and engagement and indeed how they will in turn be informed by such activity

Minimum income guarantee – foundation principles


At the previous meeting of the Expert Group (October 13th) members identified the need for an agreed set of high-level principles defining a Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) to guide and inform the work of the Group. This paper:

  • sets out key questions for discussion about these high-level principles – we have termed these ‘foundation principles’;
  • provides background on relevant research and findings;
  • suggests a set of draft foundation principles which the group may wish to consider as a starting point, to be built on through the work of the Group;
  • proposes next steps for wider discussion and engagement.   

Why do we need high-level MIG principles 

A key task for the Expert Group is to define what a MIG means for Scotland and to identify and prioritise action for further development and testing during the course of this Parliament to support the delivery of a MIG. As the Expert Group develops its working groups it is important to have a common understanding of the high-level principles that underpin a MIG, which are termed foundation principles in this paper. The Group will wish to discuss these foundation principles, and in particular whether further work is needed to ensure working groups have a common understanding of a MIG. At the same time the Group will wish to discuss whether these foundation principles offer sufficient space for working groups to undertake their work to consider a MIG.

Background on the MIG foundation principles

Some direction for high-level MIG principles can be taken from the small pool of existing research on this policy and through recent engagement work. The Scottish Government recently conducted public and stakeholder engagement, through its dialogue platform, to help direct subsequent policy development for a MIG. The key themes to emerge from this are engagement centred around adequacy, responsiveness and accessibility.

The Scottish Government’s 2021-22 Programme for Government also acknowledged the importance of this work in securing a fairer and more equal Scotland, noting that a MIG could be revolutionary in the fight against poverty; an assurance that no one will fall below a set income level which allows them to live a dignified life, delivered through targeted payments and other types of support or services provided or subsidised by the state”

Further to this, it is worth considering the principles for a MIG identified in the IPPR Scotland report, published March 2021, ‘Securing a living income in Scotland’. This paper is the most comprehensive independent work to date on what a MIG in Scotland could look like, and it contains some proposed key principles for this policy.

  • a MIG should be a universal guarantee, delivered through a targeted payment
  • a MIG should aim to realise a minimum acceptable standard of living for everyone, recognising different needs
  • a MIG should be designed to reduce poverty, inequality, and insecurity, as a payment people can rely on

Draft foundation principles

Paragraphs 7-15 set out nine draft foundation principles, which the Group is invited to discuss as a starting point for development work. These foundation principles will be subject to continuous review as the work of the MIG Expert Group develops. The Group is invited to discuss these draft foundation principles and to consider whether they are helpful to ensuring a shared understanding of a MIG as working groups get started.

A MIG is:

  • A guaranteed level of income beneath which no one would fall. Existing literature on a MIG anticipates that it sets a universal guarantee of a minimum income that would be delivered through (i) action to reduce costs and provide collective services (such as a universal basic service approach, which is being explored elsewhere) (ii) work and other existing income (such as existing social security payments not considered part of a MIG, e.g. pensions or Child Benefit) and (iii) through a new targeted MIG payment (or range of payments) to ensure everyone reaches the guaranteed minimum income level.
  • A minimum income set to ensure an acceptable basic standard of living. Existing literature on the issue states that a MIG should be set at an income level which allows people in Scotland to live a dignified life. The proposed work plan suggests a working group which will look at the level a MIG should be set. The Expert Group may want to consider what an acceptable basic standard of living looks like and how a minimum income is defined.
  • Intended to tackle poverty, inequality and insecurity. The IPPR report states that a MIG should be designed to reduce poverty, inequality and insecurity in Scotland. As such, the Expert Group may wish to consider how a MIG can be designed to further these aims, and to measure the success of policy changes that aim to further this end.
  • Accessible to all. The Expert Group may wish to consider how to ensure a MIG is accessible to everyone, as well as how this will be presented to the public. Further consideration will be undertaken around take-up of payments delivered through a MIG and the full range of equalities and inclusion issues, including how a MIG will work with people without recourse to public funds.
  • Co-ordinated, across government and beyond. The Expert Group may wish to consider how a comprehensive suite of policies under the MIG umbrella could be coordinated in an effective manner within government and beyond government. This should include consideration of how a targeted payment for those who fall below set income thresholds sits alongside other interventions such as the tax system, existing social security system, provision of basic services, and measures taken by non-state actors, including employers offering real living wages, living hours and progression.
  • Designed to recognise distinct needs. The different needs of people and families across Scotland should be examined by the MIG Expert Group and should include consideration of the distinct needs of disabled people, those with caring responsibilities, single parent families and people living in remote and island communities.
  • Co-designed by those who may benefit from it.The Expert Group will place direct experience at its heart through the creation of a new experts by experience panel. The working groups will also be tasked with ensuring experts by experience are design partners to ensure the principle of co-production runs throughout the work of the Expert Group. A MIG will only be successful if it is co-designed with those with experience of poverty and financial insecurity.
  • Supported by a broad coalition of support among the general public, stakeholders and within parliament. The MIG Steering Group sees cross-party involvement in its work and a broad range of stakeholder representatives on the Expert Group. The Expert Group workplan also places a priority on understanding and building support among the general public for plans for a MIG.
  • Implementable – through first steps taken under existing powers, with further steps and powers outlined as necessary. The MIG Steering Group will want to consider how a MIG could be implemented, to ensure its work makes a difference to policy in Scotland through first steps in the short-term, and over the long-term. This will ensure – in line with remit – a strong focus on first steps to delivering a MIG possible through existing powers. At the same time – again in line with remit – the Steering Group will consider any further powers necessary to deliver further action to implement a full MIG.

Next Steps

The Group is asked to discuss and agree these foundation principles as it begins to develop its working groups.

In addition, the Group will wish to consider whether any consultation on these foundation principles is necessary at this stage. Next steps could include publishing a discussion paper and. in particular, testing these foundation principles with experts by experience once arrangements are established. 




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