The UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) launched in April is a key pillar of the Levelling Up agenda. It aims to provide £2.6 billion of new funding by local investment by March 2025.The fund has three investment priorities: communities and place; supporting local business; and people and skills.

In Scotland, interventions will be planned and delivered by local government. Local authorities are encouraged to work closely with local partners and the Scottish Government, via local partnership groups. Lead local authorities will receive an allocation to manage and currently have to develop investment plans to be submitted to the UK Government by the end of July. Plans will then be assessed and once approved it is anticipated that first payments will be made from October.

Over the past few months SCVO has worked towards building stronger relationships across sectors to ensure that voluntary organisations are recognised as a key partner in delivering the UKSPF in Scotland. As Anna Fowlie points out, we need an inclusive approach from the regional/local partnerships to ensure that UKSPF has maximum impact in Scotland.

After SCVO and colleagues from the Third Sector Interfaces Scotland Network met with Ministers O’Brien and Stewart in April, we welcomed the direct reference to Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) and the strong encouragement outlined in the UKSPF prospectus for local authorities to consider TSIs as key partners in Scotland.

But as always words on paper will remain so until we witness otherwise. With investment plans due by the end of July, time is not on anyone’s side. Building strong partnerships across Scotland should start now if it has not yet. Real collaboration across sectors will ensure that investment plans are targeting the right interventions. But most importantly these partnerships must also help decide how best to deliver on these priorities that should be considered equally between communities and places, supporting local business, and people and skills.

The involvement of the voluntary sector should be continuous and not just another ad-hoc process that at times feels tokenistic. Relationships between the public sector (at national and local levels) and the voluntary sector are often fraught with mistrust. We know that barriers to partnership working exist and can feel difficult to overcome on all sides. However we can all try to change these perceptions.

Along with other organisations across the UK, SCVO signed up to these principles for partnership working on UKSPF.There are also resources on what good and meaningful engagement looks like. Partnerships should aim to grow stronger, with greater engagement as work progresses on this agenda. This will also be important when it comes to the monitoring and evaluation of the fund.

As a new fund, important questions remain about the UKSPF, not least about its future. But the UKSPF may also provide opportunities to review and possibly reset ways of working so that its focus on partnership working does not become another empty promise.

Over the next few weeks, SCVO will continue to work with TSIs and partners in the Scottish and UK Governments, as well as COSLA on these issues. If you have any questions about the UKSPF in your area, we encourage you to promptly contact your local TSI and local authority.

Last but not least, SCVO is also hosting an event at the Gathering (on Thursday 16th June 2022 in Glasgow) with Iain Stewart MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Scotland Office. Participants will have the opportunity to put their questions to the UK Government then and you can book to attend here.