Many of us who work in policy and public affairs in Scotland will no doubt have experienced the hustle and bustle of the Parliament in Edinburgh – the commotion in the lobby as school trips and visitors wait to receive their guest passes; the buzz about the building as politicians, researchers, staffers and parliamentary staff zip from one place to another; the hubbub on the Garden Lobby stairs as MSPs spill out of the Chamber.
It was, then, slightly unnerving on Thursday as I ventured through security alone, passed the closed café, and into a sparse reception area on my first visit to the Parliament in over two years and, more importantly, ahead of my first event with SCVO since my arrival in November – a drop-in session in partnership with the TSI Scotland Network to outline why the voluntary sector is a key asset in our communities.
But I didn’t need to worry. Despite that slightly eerie feel on arrival, the event itself was a great success as a number of MSPs flooded into the committee room following FMQs to collect our introduction to the voluntary sector and localised sector stat posters, featuring valuable insights into aspects such as the number of registered charities, TSI social enterprises and TSI volunteers in each Scottish constituency and region. There was also the option of the classic photo opportunity complete with pop-up banners, as well as the chance to spend some time time chatting away with representatives from both SCVO and the TSI Network, which most attendees did at length.
The response was incredibly constructive. There was a genuine interest and engagement in the room throughout the hour and fifteen minutes, as MSPs arrived with a desire to productively discuss the emerging issues and difficulties facing the sector, with a number recognising the need for aspects such as longer-term funding, and a keenness for information regarding the constituencies and regions that they represent. In fact, as each mask-wearing MSP approached the table to receive their tailored constituency or regional sector stats, you could see the eyes above every face-covering light up at receiving such valuable, localised information!
A huge amount of effort went into the event and it was fantastic to see that pay off in real-time as one after another, cross-party MSPs and their staff filtered into the room not just to pick up some literature, take a photo and leave, but to genuinely engage with those there tasked with championing the voluntary sector.
With that in mind, a big thank you is in order to Pam Duncan-Glancy, and her team, for sponsoring and attending the event, and to every MSP who took time out of their busy day to drop by. Appreciation is also due to our colleagues from the TSI Network for helping to make the event the success it was. As someone attending their first parliamentary event with SCVO, it was greatly encouraging to see real, tangible engagement and enthusiasm for the sector first-hand in the Scottish Parliament.
But, of course, while it’s fantastic to now look back on the event and take heart from how positive that engagement was, it is vital that it does not simply become a nice, warm memory of a lovely event. Instead, the positivity, enthusiasm and desire for beneficial and effective change that was on display on Thursday must be harnessed going forward - by SCVO, the TSI Network and MSPs alike - allowing us to work together across the whole parliament to ensure that the voluntary sector realises its potential, and has the support required to overcome ever-increasing challenges, for the benefit of people and communities across Scotland.
You can see some of the tweets from the event by checking out the hashtag #ScotVolSector.
You can also read our pre-event blog at: Why the voluntary sector is a key asset in our communities.