Each Autumn, Committees at the Scottish Parliament prepare pre-budget reports to share with Scottish Government Ministers ahead of the December Budget. Each one is packed with recommended commitments.

Like colleagues across the sector, over the last few months the policy team at SCVO have been busy responding to pre-budget consultation. The voluntary sector is an employer, a partner, and a vital social and economic actor. Our work calls on the Government to recognise and invest in a more sustainable voluntary sector.

This year we responded to calls from the Finance and Public Administration Committee consultation and the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee: Pre-budget scrutiny 2022-23

In each submission we stressed that the voluntary sector, and the services the sector provide, are under pressure. Securing these services is central to a fair and equal recovery. 

In our submission to the Finance and Public Administration Committee we highlighted the need for: 

  • Progress on and resources for the Social Renewal Advisory Board’s Calls to Action  
  • New funding models built on the innovative approaches developed in partnership with the sector during the pandemic 
  • Timely payments and flexible funding 
  • Formal procedures to mitigate the impacts of delayed UK and Scottish budgets  
  • A shift to multi-year spending plans 
  • A shift from the current competitive procurement model to a partnership-based approach. 

In the Committee Report a dedicated section on multiyear funding recognised our call alongside those of others pressing for the same thing. Multi-year budgets, the report said, are “crucial to securing certainty for Scottish public finances, including for local government, the third sector, and other key bodies.” 

In a letter to Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, and Kate Forbes MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee echoed the calls of SCVO and colleagues across the sector by pushing for a long-term conversation about human rights budgeting in Scotland. 

Following evidence from SCVO’s Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Paul Bradley, the Committee also recognised that the budget process could work more effectively for the sector.  

Paul discussed priority issues including: 

  • The need for sustainable funding 
  • The lack of unrestricted funds 
  • The competitive procurement environment 
  • Timely decision making and payments 

In response the Committee said the Scottish Government should: 

  • Shift to a more sustainable, multiyear funding model for voluntary organisations. 
  • Evaluate the role of procurement in delivering high quality services 
  • Update the Committee on the progress it has made on the Committee’s recommendations from 2019 

The Scottish Budget is now less than a month away. In the lead-up to the Scottish elections the First Minister promised a “third sector first approach” at the SCVO Hustings. The Scottish Budget is the opportunity to turn this rhetoric into action. 

In the recent UK Government Spending Review 2021 while several commitments impacted the sector the sector was largely and disappointingly, absent – our summary of Spending Review commitments and analysis is available on our policy web pages.

The Scottish Government must do better. Our sector needs recognition of our experience, our expertise, and our contribution to Scotland’s economy. We need real action on funding and procurement across the board. Let’s hope this year’s Scottish Budget includes recognition, resources, and new approaches. 

Watch SCVO’s Policy & Public Affairs Manager Paul Bradley’s opening evidence to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee: