Tomkins on UBI: Universal Basic Incoherence
Adam Tomkins MSP has been making a big song and dance about the Scottish Government wasting money on Universal Basic Income(UBI).
You see, the Scottish Conservatives submitted an FOI request to see what Civil Service guidance the Scottish Government had received about UBI. Tomkins clearly isn’t happy with the result of the FOI request.
Since reading is he has been quoted in the papers and is having a Twitter meltdown about what a waste of money it all is.
I don’t have any strong feelings the about the utility of UBI. Ultimately, I want evidence-based policy.
So, I went to the page on the government website where they publish FOI requests and had a read of the report. It is definitely true that the Civil Service advice to the Government is pretty negative about the concept of UBI. They think it is too expensive, that the public won’t like it and that it might not have the positive results that are often talked about.
So I guess Tomkins protestations seem fairly reasonable? He is entitled to criticise the SNP for wasting money on a policy that will be costly and beyond their legislative competence, right?
What did catch my eye though, was that Professor Tomkins is mentioned in the report?
Turns out he recently wrote an article in the Daily Record about UBI.
In the article, he talks about the advantages of UBI. He seems to approve of the trials that are set to go ahead in Glasgow and Fife. He even acknowledged UBI might lead to a rise in income tax. He acknowledges the Scottish Government don’t have full competence over the policy but he urges them to take the lead and investigate it.
There is no question about it costing more but if it could be shown to change behaviour and trigger a bigger workforce (as suggested by Reform Scotland), there may be merit in giving the idea further consideration.
As the law stands, the Scottish Parliament could not replace our current benefits system with a new citizen’s income – this would have to be done at Westminster. But if Scotland can lead the way in giving the idea serious consideration, that would be useful.
Am I the only person who is sensing a massive whiff of Universal Basic Incoherence?
Tomkins was so keen to put forth his normal SNP bad rent-a-quote that he clearly forgot his own recent publically stated opinion.
Just as a wee final thought. I’m not sure looking at UBI in the context of the current economy is the best idea. UBI is really a policy for the future. A future in which machines are doing more and more of the work and wealth is held by the fewer and fewer humans. It is only sensible that the government looks at UBI and other similar ideas now in order to plan ahead. I’m happy for a wee bit of tax-payers’ money to be for used for such purposes. Tomkins was too only a few months ago when he wasn’t being so disingenuous.
We wrote recently about a more affordable alternative plan to UBI.
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