I was part yesterday of a studio discussion for “The Big Questions”, a Sunday morning TV programme. I’d been asked along to say something about Universal Basic Income, which was being put forward by Guy Standing and Glasgow councillor Matt Kerr. Other questions considered in the programme (each question gets twenty minutes) were about Scotland’s voice in Brexit, where I did get my oar in, and reparations for slavery, where I didn’t. (There’s a hilarious take on the programme’s format here – I went in the full knowledge that it was going to be tough.) The programme is on Iplayer for a little while.
I’ve said plenty about both Basic Income and Brexit on this blog, so let me fill a gap by saying where I stand on reparations for slavery. While there’s no doubt about the depth of the historical injustice, I don’t think we can rewrite thousands of years of world history to rectify it. I come from a long line of refugees. I can’t accept the principle that I should be compensated for the injustice they suffered; I’ve done nothing to justify that. (That also means, by the way, that I think the UN’s current position on hereditary refugee status is nonsense; if they’re right, I should be thought of as a refugee from three other countries.) When my great grand father, grandfather and father came to Britain, the first in the 1880s and the others in the 1940s, they didn’t come to join a slave-traders’ club; they came to one of the few countries that had stood against slavery and oppression. Britain has things to be ashamed of, sure enough, but it’s also got something to be proud of.