A minimum income guarantee in Scotland

Post date: 
14 September 2021

What is a minimum income guarantee? There are numerous models that have been proposed, but the general idea is that everyone should be entitled to a minimum level of income. In Scotland, it has been suggested that this level should be set with reference to a minimum income standard. However, it is often assumed that this guarantee can only be delivered by some kind of means-tested payment to lift incomes up to the threshold, but as we shall see in this paper this minimum can actually be achieved in a number of ways.

In Scotland, there is cross-party support for the idea of a minimum income guarantee, and the Scottish Government has set up steering group to explore how a minimum income guarantee could happen in Scotland. A minimum income guarantee could lift all children out of poverty. It could also prevent poverty and provide financial stability and security for everyone in Scotland. The pandemic has shown us that anyone can see a sudden and dramatic fall in income and that the current social security system does not provide an adequate safety net.

In order to realise this ambition at a Scotland level the Scottish Parliament would require further powers over social security (or significant changes to UK social security policy). If further powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, how could these powers be used in Scotland to prevent and lift people out of poverty? Our Secure Futures project has started work on answering the question: What does a social security system that provides a secure future for children and families look like? This paper looks at this question in the context of the Scottish social security powers and the potential opportunities provide by the introduction of a minimum income guarantee.