It has now been eight months since The Gathering 2020, where SCVO launched its Manifesto for the Future and it is fair to say that the world looks very different now. By way of a short reminder, the Manifesto was developed by SCVO’s Policy Forum, a group comprised of a diverse range of stakeholders from throughout Scotland’s voluntary sector. The Forum collected evidence from innovative thinkers and key opinion leaders in Scotland who shared their thoughts and recommendations on what the country needed to do to protect its environment, properly embrace human rights and develop a more inclusive participatory democracy. 

The end result was SCVO’s Manifesto for the Future which outlined an aspirational but achievable long-term vision for the future of Scotland. It set forth future focussed ambitions based on the social, environmental and political context which the voluntary sector and beyond operates within. Over the last few months this landscape has changed quite considerably. However, whilst the Manifesto was produced and published pre-coronavirus, its forward thinking views still remain relevant and can act as a blueprint from which Scotland can work from in its bid to positively recover and rebuild post-pandemic.

The Manifesto, at its heart, encourages Scotland to move towards a wellbeing centred economy which supports human rights, social and environmental justice, equality and wellbeing for all its people. Both the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER) and Social Renewal Advisory Board (SRAB) have spoken publicly over recent months on how the coronavirus pandemic offers the country the chance to reform public services, rebuild the economy, change our lifestyles and improve our democratic processes. But in order to deliver said change, a clear commitment to action is required from those in all areas of policy decision-making.

Whilst coronavirus is the immediate challenge, it is important that any decisions around recovery are not short-sighted and take into account many of the other challenges Scotland will face over the next decade and beyond. Scotland’s population will be larger and older by 2030. The advancement of new technology will radically change the jobs market. Free movement of people, goods and money will be fundamentally changed by Brexit. The success of populist and divisive politicians will have profound implications for all countries. A radical global response to the climate emergency and nature crisis must be agreed and actioned. Coronavirus is undoubtedly the main challenge for decision makers right now, but any decisions to reshape the economy, environment and our democracy must consider the larger picture in order to ensure effective and meaningful change.

Throughout SCVO’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the recommendations of the Manifesto have been and continue to be front and centre of our activity. Whether that is through submissions to AGER and the government’s response, inwebinars with Scottish Government ministers or through detailed briefings shared with parliamentary committees and MSPs. Pushing forward the Manifesto’s vision for Scotland’s future was a key priority for SCVO pre-pandemic and will continue to remain a key priority post-pandemic.

Scotland’s voluntary sector is wide reaching and covers every area of society. Throughout the pandemic the sector has shown itself to be #NeverMoreNeeded. Organisations are working tirelessly throughout the country to ensure that human rights are protected, that the environment is considered in policy decision making and that the rights of citizens living within our democracy are upheld. The voluntary sector will remain a constant presence amongst ongoing political uncertainty, therefore there needs to be agreement and consensus within the sector and beyond that urgent action is required to ensure Scotland’s place as an innovator is retained now and in the future.