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We're entering a new academic year at the University of Glasgow, one that will be very different from previous years. However, while we're all becoming used to new ways of working and living, we're keen to ensure we can continue to offer the insights and opportunities for knowledge-sharing that Policy Scotland has provided in the past.

I'm delighted that we have two (online) events coming up, both of which are sure to be fascinating. And you can catch up with our latest blogs and publications, covering, among other topics, welfare and employment, universal basic income, school inspections, and housing policies for social and economic benefit.

Best wishes,
Professor Chris Chapman, Director of Policy Scotland


A conversation with Hilary Benn MP 

Head and shoulders photo of Hilary BennIn the last few weeks of the UK’s membership of the European Union, join Policy Scotland’s Deputy Director Des McNulty in conversation with senior Labour MP Hilary Benn to discuss Brexit and what it means for Britain’s future. 

As Chair of the Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union in the House of Commons for the past four years, Hilary Benn is a central figure in the Parliamentary Brexit battles. The ‘Benn Act’ forced the UK Government to extend the negotiations to avoid a ‘no deal’ exit. But is ‘no deal’ now back on the table?  

The implications of Brexit for the UK economy will be a key topic in this discussion, as will the potential ramifications of Brexit for the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK. 

As well as a new relationship with Europe, Brexit also means a re-configuring of Britain’s place in the world. As a former Secretary of State for International Development and former shadow Foreign Secretary how does Hilary Benn see Brexit impacting on the UK’s international standing now and in the future? What are the implications of the UK government’s recent decision to get shut down the International Development Department and place the brief within the Foreign Office? Will money be diverted from supporting development projects in the poorest countries in the world and is the bi-partisan commitments to 0.7% of GDP being spent on International Development under threat? What about international commitments to co-operate to tackle the greatest global threat we face - climate change? 

And finally, how will Britain fare in a world still reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and learning to live with its long-term consequences? Are the tensions between the UK and Scottish Governments over the handling of Covid a matter of governments with different political priorities failing to co-operate or do they represent a more serious rift that threatens the Union?

Don’t miss what is sure to be a fascinating and illuminating event. 

1pm, Thursday 8 October, online

Register for your free place on Eventbrite

Reforming welfare, work and social security in the UK: who are the winners and losers?

Since 2010 the UK government has introduced a range of reforms that have reshaped the relationship between workers and the labour market. Major changes in social security are playing out alongside major changes to employment rights and protections, emphasising issues of low pay, in-work poverty, and labour market experiences.

This seminar will share insights on key labour market reforms alongside the policy instruments within the welfare state that regulate work and workers in the age of austerity and reform. Whilst consecutive governments during have suggested that the UK has a low unemployment rate and therefore healthy labour market, this event seeks to illuminate what the raft of reforms mean for UK workers. What has changed? Who wins and who loses? What do labour market and welfare reforms mean for those of us interested in poverty, employment, and the British welfare state?

Professor David Etherington (Staffordshire University) will outline key arguments from his new book Austerity, Welfare and Work: Exploring Politics, Geographies and Inequalities and reflects on the role of trade unions during this time. Through a detailed examination of benefit sanctioning, Dr David Webster (University of Glasgow) will describe the key trends in welfare policy and administration that shape the relationship between unemployed citizens and the labour market. Their presentations will be followed by a panel discussion chaired by Dr Hayley Bennett (University of Edinburgh) with additional reflections from Dr Jay Wiggan (University of Edinburgh) and Polly Jones (Trussell Trust).

1pm, Wednesday 21 October, online

Register for your free place on Eventbrite

Past events

Priorities for the new normal: lessons in lockdown research

As Scotland moves from the crisis period to a longer-term period of recovery, it is critical that we reflect on the lessons from the crisis period to inform action and investment in the longer term.

This virtual seminar and discussion was hosted by Policy Scotland and Scotland’s Third Sector Research Forum to focus on new evidence from third sector and academic research during the COVID-19 lockdown period in the UK. 

It highlighted the range of research and evidence gathered in lockdown about specific communities at the sharp end of changes and the organisations that have been addressing their needs. Attendees also discussed the actions should be taken forward by policy actors at various levels of government. 

Watch the presentations and more resources on the Policy Scotland website


The COVID-19 crisis and Universal Credit in Glasgow: September 2020

A young woman in a supermarket and leaning on an supermarket trolley and holding her head in her hands as if she is upsetThe second working paper in a series on Universal Credit (UC) in Glasgow by Policy Scotland researcher Dr Sarah Weakley highlights the scale of the challenges faced by people on low incomes in the pandemic. The data contained in the first paper, up to early April 2020, illustrated the first large spike in UC claims and an increase in the caseload, but this longer time horizon allows us to see how the UC caseload reflects those most in need in this extended recovery period. The paper updates figures to early July 2020 and highlights new areas of concern for policymakers and programmes serving people on low incomes.

Would a basic income be the best response to the COVID-19 crisis?

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the failings of the UK social security system and has led to calls for a temporary universal basic income (UBI). But is UBI the most effective response? And what do we know about the effects of unconditional cash payments? This paper by Dr Marcia Gibson, Investigator Scientist (MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit), Institute for Health and Wellbeing, weighs up the evidence.

COVID-19: Do we need to redefine the priorities for school inspections?

The disruption to schooling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated changes in all aspects of school policy and practice, including the purpose, priorities and practices of inspectorates of education across the world. This is the second paper from the ICSEI Crisis Response in Education Network, and focuses on priorities for inspection as school systems resume but under a variety of operational scenarios. 

Pupils talking and walking in a school yard in a school in ColombiaHeadteachers coping with COVID-19 in Colombia: The challenges and value of reaching the families of the students

The views of education leaders in Colombia on the challenges of supporting student learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and what the experience has taught them. This interview with team members at the Fundación Empresarios por la Educación is the latest in our series covering global responses to the COVID-19 impact on education, all available at ICSEI: Voices From The Field.

Extending Economic Cases for Housing Policies: Rents, Ownership and Assets

This research paper by Professor Duncan Maclennan, (Chief Investigator), Policy Scotland and University of Glasgow, and Jinqiao Long, University of Glasgow, builds on earlier City Futures Research Centre research that argued, and then demonstrated, that it is important to make more than social needs cases for housing investments and policies. In particular, housing market outcomes may impact growth and productivity as well as distributional fairness. This research paper reviews the likely effects of sustained high and increasing rents  on an economy, and stresses potential productivity effects. It is particularly concerned with Australian experience but also informed by evidence from similar advanced economies, especially Canada and the UK. 

See also After COVID, we’ll need a rethink to repair Australia’s housing system and the economy, an article co-authored by Professor Duncan Maclennan, which argues for a policy reboot to transform the housing system in Australia from being part of the problem to part of the solution.

Road with blocks of flats in red brick with railings and cars outsideScottish Housing Day 2020: celebrating the value of social housing

To mark Scottish Housing Day 2020, Professor Ken Gibb, Director of the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE), highlights the findings from a recent CaCHE research project on the impact of social housing in Scotland, which provides valuable insights that can be applied around the UK. 

Read the blog and get the report on the CaCHE website

The Scottish Government’s Tech Review is an important first step – but more is needed to create world scale companies

Dr Nasira Bradley, Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, and journalist and author Ray Perman argue that the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review recently published by the Scottish Government is a laudable step in the right direction but the review falls short in understanding the total ecosystem, missing vital drivers that ensure scaleup in the US – the benchmark country for the review. They suggest that it is importmnat for more tech industry heads to engage with policymakers and together shape the innovation ecosystem to deliver growth and address inequality as we move further into the artificial intelligence era.
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