'IT is a simple fact that had the UK Government heeded calls for an emergency Universal Basic Income in response to Covid-19, many of the potentially devastating challenges people now face could have been avoided.

Instead of this straight-forward approach, the Tory Government delivered a mishmash of schemes hastily cobbled together. And although it was repeatedly pointed out that some people would fall through the gaps, the Tories were content to leave many with little to no support.

Since lockdown began, my office has seen a 350 percent surge in new cases. In the last four weeks, 31 percent can be directly attributed to the impact of Covid-19 and the failures of UK Government policy. This has left many across the constituency struggling to access support for their businesses, others facing difficulties in applying for benefits, and sadly some facing redundancy.

These cases share a common concern: how do I cover my basic needs?

It is now 15 weeks since the Chancellor promised he would do “whatever it takes” to support people through this pandemic. As financial support is winding up, so too is any hope of a more compassionate approach from PM Johnson’s team, leaving many people across Fife fearing for the future.

It does not take the wisdom of hindsight to see that the time was – and is – right for a Universal Basic Income: all it takes is the will to do the right thing.

That’s why I joined 110 parliamentarians of all parties to make this precise point to the Chancellor at the start of April. Yet the UK Government’s response has been to parrot weak lines about how the welfare system has been “strengthened for the most vulnerable”. The hollowness of these words is unfortunately becoming clear to the many Fifers now struggling with their first experience of the so-called welfare ‘safety-net’.

In reality the UK Government has eroded any sense of safety from the welfare system during a decade of brutal austerity cuts and inhumane policies. The result is a welfare system profoundly ill-equipped to cope with the impact of coronavirus.

A Universal Basic Income won’t fix everything, but it’s a strong starting point to eradicate poverty and destitution whilst delivering very real health and wellbeing benefits. Fife Council’s recently published feasibility study concluded that although a Basic Income pilot is desirable, it is not feasible within the current constitutional settlement. Whilst the Scottish Government share this view, an obvious block remains as the necessary welfare and tax powers sit with the UK Government.

Back to simple facts. The ability to deliver the right ideas, at the right time, to rebuild our communities and economy can only happen with the full powers of independence'.