Scotland is about to join the slowly expanding list of countries that are experimenting with Universal Basic Income (UBI). These trial-runs are exploring a variety of different ways in which citizens will receive a guaranteed salary from the government, regardless of social status or any other factor. There are currently UBI experiments being run or seriously considered in areas of the United States, Canada, Germany, Finland, and a host of others, which are being funded both by governments and private organizations.
According to Jamie Cook, Director of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA), “This is a significant opportunity for Scotland to be a global leader in social policy innovation, and to work with other pilots across the world to develop robust evaluation of UBI as a response to the challenges we face. We look forward to working with Scottish Government and other parties in taking this forward.”
This Scottish experiment will start small with local municipalities creating proposals to be involved. The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, is open to the widespread adoption of UBI policies stating that it “is an idea that merits deeper consideration.”
More leaders are going to be confronted with that consideration whether they like it or not. The most recent projections admittedly do see the rate of automation slowing, yet they also acknowledge that we are on a track toward greater automation. So, policymakers must take time to consider how to deal with a society where the majority of previously human-held jobs will be accomplished by machines.
UBI may also be a long way from perfection, but it is the willingness of governments and other entities to conduct these experiments that will allow such policies to grow and take root. Testing the possibilities of UBI and seeing it fail is one thing, but to dismiss the idea offhand before a fair trial-run would do a great disservice to society.