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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.

Finding some glimmers of hope from 2022 - SCVO policy & public affairs

Without question, the start of 2023 is shaping up to be one of the busiest periods I've encountered at SCVO. 2022, however, was no breeze. Six years into my time here, there remains an ever constant need to deal with new policies and challenges, explore different ways of engaging with an overstretched sector, and build on existing work to enhance our position.

Those working in policy and public affairs know that we achieve nothing overnight, and a lack of progress in securing our big goals - and sometimes even the smallest of goals - is often disheartening. Still, we'll take all the glimmers of hope we can get, keep them close, and do all that we can in the slow-moving world of policy to hold those responsible accountable.      


One of those glimmers comes on fair funding. We've spent the last 18 months banging the drum for a fairer deal on funding for the sector, most recently in our evidence to the Social Justice and Social Security Committee. In responding to the committee's calls for multi-year funding for the sector, the government said it intends to adopt fairer funding practices over the next year.

Our role is to hold the government accountable for its promise to adopt fairer funding. The papers we've published this year show that fair funding is more than longer-term. Funding must be sustainable with inflation-based uplifts and meet full core costs, flexible with more unrestricted funding, and accessible in terms of applications, communications, timing, and reporting.

Not all funding comes from the Scottish Government or via other bodies in Scotland. The UK Government is expanding its role through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), part of its Levelling Up agenda and filling the huge gap left by the end of European funding. There remain so many unknowns with this agenda following a turbulent year in Westminster.

SCVO and the TSI Scotland Network have built solid relationships with the UK Government. Our joint lobbying earlier in the year secured a visible role for TSIs in the UKSPF prospectus when it came to their role in developing local investment plans. It's been a mixed picture in practice and, this December, we met with the Minister for Levelling Up and the Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Scotland Office as we look to strengthen the sector's visibility and role.  

Future regulation

We cover many other areas, not least regulation. As an example, we know that voluntary organisations struggle to find banking services that meet their needs. Following conversations between the voluntary sector and the UK Government, UK Finance, the membership body for UK banking and financial services, launched a project in 2022 to assess and propose solutions. We're a partner, and we'll hopefully be able to share more in the New Year.

While the Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill at the start of its journey through the Scottish Parliament will, if passed, strengthen the regulator's powers, we were clear from the very beginning that the original proposals needed to go further, and the engagement could have been better. We're pleased that the government has listened to our calls and committed to a broader, independent review

It is crucial that those who fall under regulation can influence and shape it to make sure it is fit for purpose, and this also applies to long-standing calls to extend FoI to the voluntary sector. SCVO is approaching Katy Clark MSP's proposal for an FoI Reform Bill with an open mind. Still, I was pleased to see the Scottish Government's latest consultation reflect the challenges SCVO raised in our response to its consultation in 2019.

Role in the economy

Both items show the importance of engaging with consultations, but we've also seen progress in other areas. Having worked with Social Enterprise Scotland to secure an amendment to the Scottish National Investment Bank Bill in 2020 that would allow voluntary organisations to access loan finance from the bank, I was delighted to see the bank take up this option for the first time in 2022.

We need to see the voluntary sector taken more seriously for its role in the economy and its potential to add even greater value, as discussed in our thought leadership series. I was pleased to see our calls for representation of the voluntary sector on crucial economic groups lead to the appointment of Ewan Aitken, Chief Executive of Cyrenians, as a member of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation Delivery Board.


Our relationships with MSPs and MPs have also been going strong. At the end of 2021, SCVO was one of the highest-rated organisations for awareness and regard in an annual survey of MSPs. We've looked to build on that this year through 6 oral evidence sessions and 9 written submissions, with a clear focus on the Finance Committee, which is crucial to our fair funding asks. We also secured 88 nominations from 27 MSPs for this year's Scottish Charity Awards.

Hosted by Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP, we organised a parliamentary drop-in event in partnership with the TSI Scotland Network. Here, we launched our 'Introduction to the Voluntary Sector' guide and posters with localised information (see SCVO's 2021/22 Impact Report). Later in the year, we teamed up with Volunteer Scotland to visit Scottish MPs in Westminster to brief them on the cost-of-living crisis and the need for continued support with energy.

Finally, there's our policy network for those operating in or close to policy development. Although this is less about SCVO influencing the policy landscape, we've held a wide array of events this year that have been of help to others in the sector with their influencing work. Our first 'meet the programme for government team' event was a tremendous help to us and our preparations earlier in the year!

Thank you for your support in 2022!

2023 looks to be another hugely challenging year for everyone in the sector. The list of consultations, inquiries, and bills that policy professionals will meet in the early part of next year is eye-watering. Still, 2022 has set some solid foundations for SCVO's policy and influencing across a whole range of areas - many of which are not covered here - and I'm hopeful we might see some of the glimmers of hope from 22 turn into positive change in 23.  

Last modified on 16 April 2024