Article 25 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

It’s a great feeling to be in at the beginning of something – the launch of Citizens Basic Income Network Scotland – however unwieldy the title is! One young turk,  alluding to the clunkiness of the nomenclature, proposed we cut to the chase, get radical and call it the ef-off payment.  All credit to the panel, some of whom have been trailblazing the radical notion of citizens income for forty years, for  accepting the suggestion of a foff payment with grace and humour. Glasgow  and Govan rise to the occasion once more.

The keynote speaker was Guy Standing who in May this year gave the RSA SCOTLAND: ANGUS MILLAR LECTURE 2016 on Basic Income in relation to Scotland.  He journeyed the same territory at this launch in the Pearce Institute, but this time with the a new  urgency and focus brought about by the political tsunamis of the last six months. He has been predicting the danger of a destabilising monster emerging from the widening gap between rich and poor and the growth of the precariat, a social class formed by people suffering from a precarious existence affecting their material and psychological welfare. He argues  that currently the poor are excluded from  citizenship. Basic Income is a solution to this crisis –  part of a progressive strategy to give voice and agency to all citizens.

On affordability he rallies against the rise of rentier capitalism funded by state subsidies and the plundering of the (our) commons. He asks us to contemplate a paradigm shift and consider our current collective wealth as a product of the work and efforts of our ancestors.  We can rethink Citizen’s Income as a social dividend from their efforts.

While listening two things occur to me.

  • I’ve often pondered the wealth that has been mined out of Fife and Midlothian villages leaving nothing to show for the gruelling efforts of those who produced it.
  • Using this paradigm, Citizen’s Income needs to be a global strategy.  In Black and British: A Forgotten History, David Olusoga reminds us that the cotton mills of England were supplied by slave labour in the American South.  We are all connected.

Guy Standing has conducted Citizens Income pilots in India and Africa, with irresistible outcomes: Nutrition of children, especially girls improved, sanitation, health, schooling improved and equity of women improved disproportionately.  There was more work not less – the only decrease in work was by children. Young women gained cultural autonomy and could say no to elders e.g. in wearing veils,  and with financial autonomy could say no to sexual demands on them.

Through the keynote speech then,  we were taken on a journey from bleakness to optimism.  There is a feeling  that this is an idea whose time has arrived.  Guy has the ear of Davos and the Bilderberg Group among others. And this he says is the year of the pilots.  Hot news at the launch was the announcement that Fife is working towards running  a pilot Citizens Income Scheme in 2017.  Whoop!  The next Citizens Basic Income Network Scotland Event will be on 28th January in Kelty.