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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.

Letter to Shona Robison MSP, Deputy First Minister & Cabinet Secretary for Finance

SCVO has written to Shona Robison MSP following her appointment as Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance.

Dear Deputy First Minister

Congratulations on your recent appointment as Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Deputy First Minister. I really appreciate the positive working relationship that SCVO has enjoyed with you previously as Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government. I hope we can build on that relationship in your new role.

As you know, the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have been tremendously challenging for voluntary organisations, pushing many to their limits and close to breaking point. Over the past few years, many organisations have also witnessed increased demand for essential services and support while grappling with rising costs. Consequently, far too many voluntary organisations are uncertain about their survival in the next 12 months.

Given these circumstances, it will come as no surprise that I urge you in your new role to fulfil the commitments to provide Fair Funding for the voluntary sector that you and the previous Deputy First Minister made in recent months. A long-term, flexible, sustainable, and accessible funding approach is vital for the sector's stability, enabling it to deliver quality outcomes, meet demand, and support staff and volunteers.

Fair Funding encompasses:

  • longer-term funding of three years or more
  • flexible, unrestricted funding
  • timely decision-making and payments
  • more accessible application processes
  • sustainable funding that incorporates inflation-based uplifts
  • transparent approaches to monitoring and reporting.

Although recent commitments led us to anticipate a more widespread offer of multiyear funding to voluntary organisations ahead of the new financial year, this has not materialised. The Scottish Government and parties across the Scottish Parliament recognise the many benefits of multi-year funding. However, more progress on implementation is needed. I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss any barriers in greater detail and how SCVO can support you and your colleagues in delivering on this commitment.

One area of Fair Funding where the Scottish Government could make significant strides this year is addressing bureaucracy and delays in decision-making and payments for single-year and other funds. Failures in systems and processes severely strain voluntary organisations, burdening governance and service delivery, necessitating what should be unnecessary redundancy notices, and limiting organisations' capacity to have maximum impact. Trustees (who are volunteers) are put in the position of managing intolerable levels of risk.

To prevent funding gaps and uncertainty, SCVO would like to work with the Scottish Government to ensure the following measures are incorporated into funding practice:

  • Transparency around funding timelines and decision-making processes
  • Timely communication and prompt payment of funds to organisations
  • Effective and consistent written documentation and letters of comfort
  • Consistent and accessible applications and fund information
  • Early inclusion of voluntary organisations in the design of funds

Enhanced two-way communication throughout the funding cycle is crucial to prevent situations like the one unfolding with the Children, Young People, Families and Adult Learning Third Sector Fund (CYPFAL). Please see our recent correspondence to the Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise as an example of very poor practice.

SCVO is committed to collaborating with the Scottish Government to advance Fair Funding and any area that could result in positive improvements to the operating environment and funding landscape in which Scotland's voluntary organisations work. Our policy and funding teams would be pleased to meet officials at the Scottish
Exchequer to discuss plans and any support we can offer.

Lastly, I would highlight this letter that I sent to your predecessor, John Swinney MSP, seeking clarity on how the full Barnett consequentials from the Spring Statement will be used to support voluntary organisations in Scotland. I would welcome any update on this matter.

I look forward to the opportunity to discuss these matters further with you.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Anna Fowlie

Last modified on 12 April 2023