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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.

Why the voluntary sector is a key asset in our communities

As colleagues across the sector know, the voluntary sector is key asset in communities across Scotland. 

Our sector: 

  • Supports the employment prospects of those furthest from the labour market 
  • Provides services tackling digital exclusion 
  • Provides social care and housing 
  • Undertakes vital medical and environmental research 
  • Runs most of our theatres, museums, galleries, and sports clubs 
  • And supports Scotland’s most vulnerable people and communities 

Over the last two years our sector has also been at the heart of the response to the Coronavirus crisis, delivering essential services efficiently and flexibly.  

The impact of the voluntary sector extends far beyond the vital services and support that we provide. Working in partnership with elected members and government, colleagues from across the sector have developed and championed legislation that has had a real impact on people and communities across Scotland. Changes such as those in SCVO’s book, Charities, Scotland & Holyrood: Twenty Years Delivering Change or the many voluntary sector policy successes achieved over the last session of parliament. 

Together and individually we have ensured that a range of issues effecting people and communities across Scotland are recognised, understood and, crucially, acted upon. 

Our sector is already integral to Scotland’s economic and social fabric, but with the right support, we can do more. For our sector to fulfil its potential we need MSPs and other political actors to understand the scale and breadth of the sector. 

In my experience, MSPs and staff across the Scottish Parliament often have a very strong understanding of pockets of the voluntary sector, such as organisations working on issues of interest to them, those they have experience of, or organisations supporting people and communities within their constituency. Across the sector, colleagues also have strong relationships with MSPs, parliamentary staff, and civil servants. Relationships that impact legislation and are often the envy of colleagues working in Westminster. 

What is less well understood is the size and scale of the sector: 

  • There are more than 40,000 voluntary sector organisations in Scotland 
  • Four in five Scots used a voluntary sector organisation last year 
  • Together these organisations employ over 100,000 paid staff 
  • Voluntary sector turnover is over £6billion 
  • Over one million people volunteered in Scotland last year 
  • 78 per cent of charities in Scotland are local 

Our sector is an employer, a partner, and a vital social and economic actor. 

The policy team at SCVO have been working with the TSI Scotland Network to develop an introduction to the voluntary sector. On Thursday we are delighted to be hosting a joint event at Scottish Parliament where we will share this document with MSPs, party researchers, and other parliamentary staff. At the event we will discuss how the sector can support MSPs and their constituents and, in turn, how MSPs can support Scotland’s voluntary organisations. We want to showcase that together we can make a real difference to the lives of people and communities across Scotland.  

These conversations, and those that follow over the next four years, will ensure that MSPs continue to understand the growing impact of our sector, and the challenging reality and emerging difficulties it faces. Together we can ensure that the voluntary sector realises its potential for the benefit of people and communities across Scotland. 

Last modified on 10 April 2024