John McLellan: Universal citizen’s income idea is just about sooking up to the Greens

The first minister has pledged to implement the named person scheme
The first minister has pledged to implement the named person scheme
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Nobel Prize-winning left-wing economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz has once again proved himself very useful to the SNP, but in a different way to his oft-quoted support for independence in the 2014 referendum campaign.

Still a leading member of the SNP’s Council of Economic Advisers, this week Stiglitz rubbished the idea of a guaranteed state wage for all, the universal citizen’s income (UCI), as a costly diversion from boosting well-paid employment.

Although Nicola Sturgeon has promised to pursue the policy, Stiglitz has given her a get-out from what we now know, thanks to Scottish Conservative Freedom of Information requests, would cost Scotland over £12bn a year. Even significant personal tax rises would still leave a shortfall of more than £3bn.

Much of the utopianism behind UCI is based on a supposedly conclusive, four-year 1970s experiment in Manitoba which turned out to be anything but. Claims about revolutionary findings and a right-wing cover-up have been deconstructed by the Canadian professor who extensively studied the data.

It’s therefore surely only a matter of time before the SNP dumps such a ruinous idea, but sadly Edinburgh Council’s weak administration has just sooked up to the Greens, whose pet policy this is, by agreeing to run a feasibility study here.

Who knows how much this pointless exercise could cost Edinburgh tax-payers, but how much more do Edinburgh’s coalition parties need to know other that UCI will cost billions we don’t have and the SNP’s own economy guru says it’s a waste of money.