A big round of applause for Universal Basic Income – thoughts from the Scottish Independence Convention


There was a range of political approaches at Saturday’s Scottish Independence Convention, but one thing united everyone in enthusiasm – besides the important desire for a more progressive independent Scotland. Whenever UBI was mentioned, and that happened quite often, it received wholehearted applause; especially so when Dr Philippa Whitford, SNP MP for Central Ayrshire, supported the call by pointing out that the very active involvement of pensioners in our communities demonstrated the fallacy of the idea that giving people money makes them lazy. (In fact it frees them to do all those things that don’t bring financial reward or for which – as with learning new skills – the financial reward may be in the future. See our article on UBI for more details.)

The room held 800, and we were told that the tickets could have sold three times over.While some speakers, such as the SNP’s Jim Mather, restricted their ambitions to calling for a more cuddly capitalism, others showed more awareness of the fundamental contradictions within this so-called pragmatic view and called for a more radical approach. The clearest example of this was from Commonweal’s Ben Wray, who has conveniently published a version of his speech in the National. Green co-convenor Maggie Chapman called for a decentralisation of power to local communities and stressed – as we do in the SUWN – the importance of making the best use of the powers we already have; and Richard Walker, who founded the National, emphasised the importance of holding the SNP to account – supporting them when their actions are positive but also allowing criticism when needed (an approach we are demonstrating here, I think).

I would like to be able to report back on Angela Constance’s speech, since she is Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, but she didn’t really say very much. In fact it was left up to John and Tony from Yes2 to make an impassioned response to the brutality of UK Welfare ‘Reform’. John McHarg told us that the event that spurred him into political action was hearing about a teacher who had asked a child why he was eating all the sauce packets only to discover that he had had nothing to eat for two days because his mother had been sanctioned when she couldn’t afford the bus fare to the jobcentre ten miles from their home. Grassroots groups often seem to have a much clearer understanding of the urgency of taking on the UK government over their attack on welfare than is shown by more established political campaigners. We were able to point out to the gathering that many people on benefits cannot afford to wait. We have also argued  in our book that the inability of our government to protect its most vulnerable citizens should itself be enough to make them reject a devolution settlement that makes a mockery of the pre-referendum ‘vow’.

(picture from Commonspace)

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