First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the case for a universal basic income (UBI) has been “strengthened immeasurably” by coronavirus.
On Twitter, Ms Sturgeon said she has “long been interested” in the concept of UBI, which sees governments provide citizens with a basic rate of income, regardless of financial earnings.
Her comments came after Reform Scotland published proposals for a UBI scheme which would see adults given £5,200 per year, and those under the age of 16 provided with £2,600.
According to the think tank, the Basic Income Guarantee would cost the Scottish Government £20.4 billion a year.
Reform Scotland suggested measures to raise £18.34 billion by scrapping the personal tax allowance along with some benefits, and increasing all rates of income tax by 8%.
The Scottish Government does not have the power to implement such a scheme but Ms Sturgeon said she was hoping for a “serious discussion” with Westminster.
She said: “This is an interesting and timely read from @reformscotland – I’ve long been interested in concept of UBI but current situation strengthens case immeasurably.
“It would require UK gov co-operation – given current powers of @ScotParl – but hopefully we can have serious discussion.”
At the First Minister’s daily briefing on the coronavirus outbreak, she said there had been no formal approach from the Scottish Government to Westminster to lobby for the powers needed to begin such a project.
However, Ms Sturgeon highlighted UBI pilots taking place in local council areas in Scotland.
She added: “I hope its a debate that we will be able to advance, in the fullness of time, across the UK because people are being hit in a financial sense by this, and simply tinkering with the status quo may not be enough to get us to a place of recovery as quickly as we want to do.”
Since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, the UK Government has offered a furlough programme which has seen employees put on leave by companies on 80% of their salary.
In the last two weeks of March, the BBC reports, a million people applied for Universal Credit.
Siobhan Mathers, a member of the Reform Scotland board, said UBI should be brought in during the coronavirus crisis to provide “financial certainty” for members of the public.
Ms Mathers said: “It would be a bold but welcome short-term move. However, we suggest it would also create the right long-term environment as we try to rebuild our lives and our economy.
“Our current social security system is overly complicated, and actively discourages work because the loss of benefits when a person starts work can often leave them losing money.
“Our national economic recovery must begin with a clear signal that work always pays.
“Our Basic Income Guarantee would do that, because working would not lead to a withdrawal of benefit.
“It will take political boldness, political will, and the sort of co-operation between the Scottish and UK governments which has been such a welcome by-product of the coronavirus crisis so far.
“People are suffering from the pandemic because they are doing the right thing by the Government. Now the Government must do the right thing by the people.”