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.
This year has begun with a shift in focus for SCVO’s Policy and Public Affairs (PPA) team.
We have narrowed our scope from six active policy areas to three.
In 2022/23, our focus is on:
Funding and procurement – to challenge the unsustainable funding and procurement landscape that voluntary sector organisations encounter and promote the sector’s significant socioeconomic role in Scottish life – led by Sheghley Ogilvie.
Future regulation – to ensure new and updated regulations strengthen the operational, financial, and reputational resilience of the voluntary sector so organisations are not adversely affected and/or can benefit from the regulatory environment – led by Jason Henderson.
Partnership with the public sector – to ensure governments, parliaments, and other public bodies recognise the expertise of Scotland's voluntary sector in both the design and delivery of policy strategy and services on the ground – led by Rachel Le Noan
The rest of this post gives a rundown of what the team has been up to and what’s ahead in each area.
Funding and Procurement
It should come as no surprise that funding for the voluntary sector has topped our agenda in recent months.
At the end of last year, the Scottish Government announced plans to reduce the Third Sector Fiscal Resource budget line, which funds key programmes such as the Social Enterprise Action Plan and Volunteering Action Plan.
Our webinar in December highlighted SCVO's disappointment with this, particularly as the announcement came moments after a committee session where we gave evidence to MSPs on the resilience of Scotland’s voluntary sector and witnessed their recognition of the sector’s vital role in Scotland’s response to and recovery from the pandemic.
Scottish Labour offered welcome support for our call to reverse the cut to the budget line, but there was no backtracking on the matter. The Scottish Government informed parliament that it would make efficiencies elsewhere so that no programme or plan is worse off. We are monitoring the situation to be able to report on whether this has been the case. It highlights that the economic recovery from the pandemic will be bumpy, but long-term support for the sector is needed now more than ever.
Since then, we have been highly active on the Scottish Budget, the multi-year Resource Spending Review and the replacement of European funding.
What we have done this quarter (Jan-Mar):
Following the announced Scottish Budget on the 9th of December 2021 (2022-2023) SCVO produced this summary and analysis of commitments impacting the voluntary sector and this overview of the Scottish Budget 2022/23.
SCVO responded to the Finance and Public Administration Committee’s inquiry on Scottish Government’s resource spending review in January and gave evidence to the Committee in early March. Parliamentary support is valuable, and MSPs recognise the need for longer-term funding. We were pleased to see the voluntary sector included in subsequent recommendations to the Scottish Government and hope to see a spending review that delivers on this ‘common sense’ approach.
SCVO attended a working group led by ESRA (Employment Related Services Association) and NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) on the UKSPF.
Our CEO and representatives from the TSI Scotland Network met Scotland Office Minister Iain Stewart MP and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Neil O'Brien MP. It was a positive meeting, setting out the case for the voluntary sector and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. SCVO and the TSI Scotland Network will share more on this soon.
Continued work on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund following the publication of the UKSPF Prospectus. SCVO is working with our sister councils across the UK waiting for the UK Government to publish more details about the UKSPF, which is due to launch in April 2022.
An internal paper on intermediaries funding and core grants was finalised earlier this year and is in the process of being redrafted into a separate external paper.
Identifying procurement priorities for the Scottish Government’s 2022/2023 Budget and Programme for Government.
SCVO, in partnership with TSI Scotland Network, Scottish Government, and COSLA, are organising an event on fair funding at the Gathering 2022.
Work with partners to monitor the reduction of the Third Sector Fiscal Resource budget line to see how this impacts on programmes and plans.
SCVO will respond to the Spending Review that is due to be published in May.
Behind the scenes, we have been focusing on upcoming or potential regulatory changes that may impact the sector.
What we have done this quarter (Jan-Mar):
SCVO met with Scottish Government to discuss progress on Charity Law, Freedom of Information (FOI) extension, the Scottish Fundraising Adjudication Panel, & Scottish Government procurement frameworks.
SCVO attended a meeting of the Scottish Fundraising Adjudication Panel.
Submitted a response to the Consumer Scotland's work plan, which highlighted the absence of small and medium-sized organisations from the voluntary sector, a key issue given the current energy context.
The Scottish Government's planned changes to the Scottish charity law
Potential extension to Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation that could include the sector
Revaluation of non-domestic rates
Meeting with Consumer Scotland to discuss our consultation response
Meeting with the Scottish Government to discuss sector eligibility of their framework agreements that can be used by central government and the wider public sector
Partnership with the public sector
The importance of partnership with the public sector surfaced in many of the interviews we conducted with organisations last year.
What we have done this quarter (Jan-Mar):
SCVO's work with COSLA, the Scottish Government, and TSI Scotland Network on the Strengthening Collaboration initiative announced last year continues. We have been finalising our shared work plan for 2022-23; the group will be communicating more on this shortly, so keep a lookout on our website and social media.
Continued work on a project with Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS) understanding and learning about the impact of partnerships during the pandemic.
We have secured SCVO's place on the UK Government's Domestic Advisory Group, which focuses on supporting the implementation of the UK-EU Trade Cooperation Agreement; SCVO is one of only a handful of Scottish organisations on the group.
Continued work on Strengthening Collaboration to finalise workplan and comms.
The first Domestic Advisory Group meeting takes place on 28th April.
SCVO has continued to raise our profile and frame the sector’s contribution across parliament. We have given oral evidence to Scottish Parliament committees four times in 2022, with two further sessions on the horizon in April and May. They are a valuable way for us to get our messages across while also helping to build on the positive results of a recent cross-sector survey of MSPs, in which SCVO had one of the highest ratings for awareness and regard amongst MSPs.
We delivered our MSP drop-in event at the Scottish Parliament last month, jointly held with the TSI Scotland Network. This well-attended event provided us with an opportunity to convey the importance of the voluntary sector to MSPs while handing out our guide - 'An introduction to the voluntary sector' - and posters with sector stats tailored to their local area. Our Policy & Public Affairs Officer, Jason Henderson, shares his thoughts on the event.
Other policy events included measuring the economic impact of charities, evaluating policy work, resource for the sector ahead of the local elections, and how the programme for government works within government.
I hope you have found this update useful. The next few months promise to be as busy as plans for the new financial year around funding and procurement, future regulation, and partnerships with the public sector kick into place.
If you would like to discuss any of the above, please book a meeting with SCVO’s Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Paul Bradley.