Scottish Labour has pledged to introduce a ‘minimum income guarantee’ as part of a broader plan to lift Scots – particularly children – out of poverty as the country recovers from the coronavirus crisis.
Under the proposal, the social security system would seek “in a bold and transformative mission” to “secure the wellbeing and human rights of everyone” by setting a standard that nobody would fall below.
The party led by Anas Sarwar, first elected by members in February, has announced that if successful in the May 6th Holyrood elections it would start cross-department work on the new standard “straight away”.
To determine where the standard that would restore “dignity” to many should be set, Scottish Labour has said it would launch a commission to work out the precise value in the wake of the pandemic.
The commission would also explore the mechanisms by which the standard would be achieved – and the party would in the meantime continue to explore the benefits of a universal basic income.
It notes that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says a single person must earn £19,200 a year, and a couple with two children needs to earn £18,700 each, for a minimum acceptable living standard in 2020.
Anas Sarwar said: “If we focus on making the next Scottish parliament a Covid recovery parliament, we can immediately lift as many as 60,000 children out of poverty and work towards ending the scandal of child poverty once and for all.
“We can transform the lives of those Scots who risk falling deeper into poverty year after year by offering them the stability of a guaranteed minimum income.
“Scotland’s powers over social security give us the opportunity not just to repair the safety net after a decade of Tory austerity and SNP inaction, but renew it so it is fit for the challenges of the 21st century.
“A national recovery after Covid should mean a minimum income guarantee for people that no one falls below – restoring dignity to those who have been denied it.
“That means parliament working together to ensure good jobs, lower housing costs, and a social security system there when people need it.”
Scottish Labour has said the minimum income would provide people in Scotland with “the financial stability they need” and “the social security recovery they deserve”, with a system that is easy to access.
Decent pay and conditions, a unionised workforce, an end to zero-hours contracts and the Scottish living wage would be enforced using all possible levers of government, the opposition party has promised.
“For too many people, poverty and inequality were all too common before the pandemic, we can’t go back to that,” Pam Duncan-Glancy, Scottish Labour’s spokesperson on social security said.
“We need a parliament focused on solutions and a recovery that creates good well-paid jobs, keeps housing costs down, and builds a social security system that’s there to make sure everyone has enough money to live on.
“By guaranteeing a minimum income standard that no one would fall below, we’d secure the wellbeing and human rights of all of Scotland’s people. That work must start straight away because there is not a moment to lose.”
Scottish Labour says its reformed social security system would be based on the principles of: adequacy, ensuring people can fully participate in society; respect, dignity and equality, building in human rights; and simplicity.
The party has pledged to automate the Scottish child payment, double it to £20 a week and accelerate the rollout to those aged six to 16, as well as provide £5 a week extra to families with disabled children or parents.
Sarwar added: “At this election, a fairer recovery for Scotland is on the ballot paper – and by casting both votes for Scottish Labour you can help deliver it. We need to focus on what unites us across Scotland, not what divides us.
“The next parliament must be about our national recovery and demonstrating what Scotland can do when we work together – not what we can’t do.”
The Scottish parliament has a target to reduce child poverty to 10% by 2030. Joseph Rowntree Foundation analysis has found that Scotland is on course to miss by 4% the interim 2023/24 target of cutting it by 18%.