Scotland’s national membership organisation for the voluntary sector has warned the Scottish Government’s flagship economic plan has ignored the importance of the sector.  

Earlier this week Economy Secretary Kate Forbes unveiled Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation. The plans, as well as a debate in Holyrood on the subject on Wednesday, failed to recognise the importance of the voluntary sector and its role in the economy.  

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has raised concerns about the lack of plans outlined to invest in the sector, warning Scotland is in danger of missing a genuine opportunity to transform its economy.  

SCVO warned the sector’s exclusion from the Advisory Council that developed the strategy means important issues for many organisations in Scotland – including areas like its role as a significant employer and multi-year funding – remain underappreciated.  

Commenting on Scotland's National Strategy for Economic Transformation and yesterday’s Scottish Parliament debate, Chief Executive of SCVO, Anna Fowlie said:  

“Though I recognise the positive elements in this strategy, I'm deeply disappointed that it fails to recognise Scotland’s voluntary sector's role in achieving the aspiration to become a wellbeing economy built on the principles of prosperity for all, equality, sustainability, and resilience.  

Through supporting the employment prospects of those furthest from the labour market, tackling digital exclusion, providing social care and housing, undertaking vital medical and environmental research, or running most of our theatres, museums, galleries, and sports clubs, Scotland’s voluntary organisations are integral to Scotland’s economic and social fabric.  

With an annual turnover of £6bn and more than 100,000 paid staff, the Scottish Government needs to invest in a skilled and engaged voluntary sector workforce that can innovate and enhance successful programmes that are crucial to Scotland’s foundational economy.  

Many of us called for the strategy to invest in voluntary organisations as significant employers, partners, and agents for change in Scotland’s recovery, alongside the public and private sectors, yet this strategy overlooks the intrinsic role of Scotland’s voluntary sector role in addressing systemic issues in our economy, and is stubbornly, ‘focused on business.’  

While the Scottish Government pledges to ensure the voice of business is heard, with ‘robust governance’ structures ‘co-led by business,’ there is no such commitment to the voluntary sector. This is not an inclusive strategy, and there is little evidence of the Scottish Government respecting the strengths or drawing on the expertise of Scotland’s voluntary sector.  

The sector was not represented on the Advisory Council that developed the strategy; key sector policies including the Social Renewal Advisory Board, the Social Enterprise Action Plan, and Volunteering Action Plan, all of which can play have a vital role in transforming the economy, are forgotten within the alignment of existing plans; and the sector’s role supporting work, innovation, and investment is unappreciated, even in relation to areas like fair work and multi-year funding, which are of key importance to the sector.  

Given that the strategy will underpin Scotland’s first spending review in 11 years, it needed to go further in detailing how the Scottish Government plans to work alongside the voluntary sector to achieve our National Outcomes and how it will build upon and invest in the capacity of this vital sector.”