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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

SCVO 2016 Holyrood Manifesto - Key Themes


With the prospect of new powers over income tax through the Scotland Act 2012 and Scotland Bill 2015-16, SCVO has been reflecting on what a future Scottish tax system may look like. For SCVO there are two key questions to be answered before we began to consider what we might do with new powers over taxation: ‘what is tax for?’ and ‘what language should we use around tax?’. SCVO has had a number of conversations with those in our sector and across wider civil society over the past year from which we have developed what we consider to be five key principles for an improved tax system. These are:
  1. Tax should be progressive
  2. Tax should be used to encourage democratic engagement
  3. Tax should encourage positive behaviour and discourage negative ones
  4. Tax should be ‘done’ in a simple, transparent manner
  5. We should be careful of the language we use to talk about tax
You can find out more about SCVO’s thinking on taxation by reading our submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee on the Scottish Rate of Income Tax. What we would like to see:
  • Discussion of the role of our tax system.
  • A change in the use of language in relation to taxation.
  • Progressive policies for new tax powers.


When it comes to employment the key areas for the third sector are fair work; the living wage, and creating an effective, personalised, coherent, Scottish alternative to the Work Programme. In SCVO’s submission to the Fairer Scotland employability consultation we stated that we need to put people at the heart of employability support.  We emphasised the need to prioritise self-directed support as this allows assistance to be tailored while building up people’s confidence and skills. We also noted the importance of not developing employability support in isolation, ensuring that there are good links with those services and devolved policy areas which affect employability. Our response to the Fairer Scotland consultation was informed by SCVO’s recently published employability discussion paper. This paper concluded that while paid employment remains one of the best ways in which people can take control over their lives; solely focusing on getting people into jobs is a mistake. SCVO believes that we need to value all forms of contribution, not just jobs, and to tailor support to each citizen’s capabilities and offer. This includes their role as parents/carers, volunteers, learners or activists. The primary goal of employability support should not simply be how we can get people into paid work, any kind of paid work, as soon as possible. What we would like to see:
  • Continuation of the Fair Work Forum and job creation focused on ‘good’ work.
  • Encouragement of, and commitment to, payment of the living wage.
  • Exploration and appreciation the differing contributions people make and looking beyond just valuing people’s paid employment.

New Social Security Powers

How new powers might be used has been the subject of ongoing discussions throughout the third sector. The primary message is about the need for a new, coherent approach to policymaking which integrates new and existing powers. This has also led to reflections on how existing powers are currently used and what changes could be made to these. Broadly speaking the sector is ambitious when thinking about how new powers might be used. Many see this as an opportunity to do things differently and innovatively, creating policies and systems that are truly person centred and promote the idea, where appropriate, of self-directed support. However, as the sector has stated from the outset of the Smith Commission process, those who will be affected by these new powers need to be involved in their design. Similarly SCVO has strongly advocated for a role for the third sector in developing the policies behind new powers, bringing in its expertise. What we would like to see:
  • Commitments to including those who will be affected by new powers in their design.
  • Ambitious ideas for how we might use new powers to improve people’s lives.
  • Consideration of how new and existing powers may interact and impact upon each other.

Other key themes for the third sector include:

  • Increasing participation – building greater capacity for participatory budgeting, volunteering and community activism.
  • Agency and empowerment – enabling people to make decisions about things which affect them and take control over their own lives; building and further the idea of Self-Directed Support, expanding the idea into other areas, for example, employment support; linking this to the idea of participation, i.e. enabling people to participate in decisions that affect their community.
  • Sustainable funding for the sector – better procurement, grants and access to finance at a time of public spending cuts and rising demand.
  • Human rights - protecting legal and practical access to universal Human Rights; securing the Human Rights Act against repeal.
  • Lobbying and campaigning – securing the sector’s campaigning voice. Any lobbying transparency should be achieved with minimal bureaucracy so that democratic engagement isn’t impinged.
  • Open government and open data - working jointly with civil society to take forward actions and commitments through the Open Government Partnership.
Last modified on 22 January 2020