Assessing the feasibility of citizens’ basic income pilots in Scotland

That this House notes the recent publication of the report entitled Assessing the Feasibility of Citizens’ Basic Income Pilots in Scotland which presents comprehensive and detailed research into the feasibility of a citizens’ basic income pilot in Scotland; further notes that it has been developed by a successful collaboration of local government and public health bodies supported by the Scottish Government; and calls on the UK Government to work with the Scottish Government on developing a basic income pilot and to instruct HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions to co-operate with the Scottish Government as they seek to establish such a pilot scheme.

Greenock Telegraph 3rd July 2020

As I write this it is a very grey dreich Inverclyde morning. We are 100 days into lockdown and despite continually improving statistics, including many days without any recorded deaths due to covid19, there is still no clear exist path back to normality.

Indeed, there are many questions pertaining to what that normality will look like. But without turning this into some sugar-coated sickly-sweet Disney version of reality there have been some quite amazing accomplishments by citizens of Inverclyde during this crisis. Before Covid19 Inverclyde Community Action Response Group (ICARG) did not exist and yet through application and cooperation across local organisations they have created a powerful cohesive programme that has resulted in over 25,000 meals being funded, prepared and delivered to homes across Inverclyde. 1,000 prescriptions collected and delivered, 4,000 food boxes delivered and over 8,000 ‘keep in contact’ phone calls made. And these phone calls have gone from averaging fifteen minutes to averaging forty-five minutes. This is on top of the existing pre Covid19 services. This is additional demand that some people didn’t believe even existed. And yet we know at the grass roots it does and volunteers combined with established community workers took on the challenge and beat it.

Often, it is not just about the meal or the prescription, as highlighted by the telephone service, it’s the human contact that matters. A knock on the door to deliver food means somebody knows you exist, somebody is looking out for you, somebody cares.

Eventually, the dark clouds will roll away and when that happens, we must not forget the sense of community spirit that so many people have embraced to such great effect in these times. Inverclyde is so much better than some of the damning statistics that we read about. Sometimes we just need to believe in ourselves, believe goals can be achieved and work together.

Greenock Telegraph 19th June 2020

Brave New World

My favourite book is Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’. It is a savage critique of the fallacy of a man made, genetically controlled perfect society. The reason the book works is that Huxley has created a world without worry. It subtly seduces the reader with the idea of a comfortable stress-free existence where everyone conforms and “everyone is happy now”. And let’s be honest in real life individuals can be really annoying. Covid19 has highlighted this. New rules have been created to help us all get through a health pandemic and yet some folk will not conform. This ranges from senior government advisers and ministers exuding the superior than thou attitude that they can interpret rules to suit their needs, to folk ignoring distancing, refusing to wear a mask, visiting family and friends when it is inappropriate and generally picking and choosing their version of what they can do with no respect for others.

But just as in the book, individuality is crucial to us as human beings. If you remove choice, then we are all poorer. There will always be people who abuse their rights as an individual and transform that into a selfish disregard for everyone else’s feelings. But if we allow those people to push us into a society where conformity is everything then we all lose. Individuality and all the complexities and frustrations that entails used responsibly and mixed with a compassion for the common good will stand us in good stead through this crisis, and after it, when we adjust to the new normal. A normal where we respect individuality within a new society where we need to respect each other’s space.

APPG on Gambling Related Harm report

A new report by a cross-party group of MPs is published.

The expansive report outlines a number of recommendations for the UK government to consider, including:

  • Introduce a £2 stake limit online
  • Ban all gambling advertising – as was the case pre-2005
  • Ban VIP schemes
  • A complete overhaul of gambling regulation in the UK

Due to the staggering inaction of this hapless Tory government at Westminster, the gambling industry has grown exponentially while individuals’ lives have been ruined.

The UK government cannot continue to ignore a problem that is multiplying right under its nose. The Gambling Commission is not fit for purpose – it’s time for decisive action to be taken before more families are torn apart by the scourge of gambling-related harm.

It’s astonishing to think that since the ban was lifted in 2005, we have become desensitized to the overwhelming amount of advertisement by gambling across all mediums.

This report is the wake-up call that the Tories need. Rather than pandering to the multi-million pound industry, Westminster must finally put people before profit and act now.

Click to access Online-report-Final-June-16-2020.pdf