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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.

SCVO's policy and influencing progress in 2023

SCVO's policy and public affairs team braced ourselves for a busy start to the year – you may recall my blog from December.

We've needed to continue to raise the profile of immediate issues affecting voluntary organisations, such as the escalating energy costs and lingering high inflation reported in the Scottish Third Sector Tracker.

Alongside these issues, we've had to respond to various regulatory policies; the Charities Bill and proposals to expand freedom of information to our sector were among those up for scrutiny. 

But that's not all. There were important strategic agendas, too, like economic transformation, community wealth building, and the review of Scotland's National Outcomes. These may not feel pressing but require our sector's involvement from the get-go.

The work has certainly been varied in a period of tremendous pressure and political change, but our activities all link to one clear goal: supporting an operating environment where voluntary organisations not only survive but thrive.

Here's a glimpse into what we've been up to in the past six months.

Making strides towards Fair Funding

"Fair Funding" isn't just a catchphrase for us. We've set out what Fair Funding looks like in practice. Our recent position paper details this, resulting from considerable engagement with the sector.

Since then, we have welcomed the Scottish Government's pledge to 'Fairer Funding' by 2026. However, we remain eagle-eyed in ensuring the government fulfils these promises. We understand that progress depends on systemic changes tied to public service reform and improved Scottish Government decision-making, and we took part in two related inquiries this year.

Recently, we outlined what progress we expect to see in 2023/24, which you can read in our proposals for the 2023 Programme for Government. We have also scheduled discussions with the Scottish Government to discuss expectations, timelines, and the next steps - we know all too well that words do not always equate to action.

Following the UK Government's Spring Statement in March, SCVO saw the Scottish Government reject our calls for it to pass onto the sector any Barnett consequentials from the £100m of increased spending on the sector in England. That's despite the line that further funding 'depends on Westminster.'

However, Fair Funding is about more than just the amount of funding but also its administration. We and partners like the TSI Network have proactively identified poor funding practices. At the same time, we've offered suggestions for improvement.

We've also maintained regular communication with the Scottish Government over implementing new Fair Work First criteria, securing webinars in May and June to raise awareness.

Pushing for better regulation 

June ended with the passing of the Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill by MSPs. Many organisations felt disappointed with the narrow changes proposed in 2019. However, we've always supported the regulator's calls for changes that will allow it to fulfil its responsibilities.

We have briefed the Scottish Parliament and worked closely with the government, OSCR, the Law Society, and others throughout the process. In doing so, we have secured widespread support for and the Scottish Government's commitment to a broader review of charity regulation, and we're calling for this to be independent.  

Engaging with consultations from the Scottish Government and Scottish Labour on extending freedom of information coverage to voluntary organisations has been another priority. We've organised webinars, workshops, and meetings to develop alternative policy proposals to enhance transparency and accountability proportionately.

We're also teaming up with UK-wide organisations to address banking issues.

The voluntary sector: a key player in the economy

Assessing and explaining the voluntary sector's impact on Scotland's economy is complex yet crucial. The sector needs to be at the heart of economic development.

Our thought leadership series on this topic expanded our understanding and sparked collaborations, including with the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), which hosted an insightful roundtable in June. Discussions will continue in 2023, with others such as the Fraser of Allander Institute and SPICe taking forward important work in this area.

In May, we responded to the Scottish Government's consultation on community wealth building, supporting our CEO, Anna Fowlie, in her role on the Advisory Steering Group. We also proposed updates to Scotland's National Outcomes, emphasising the importance of our sector.

Remarkably, the voluntary (or third) sector is not mentioned once throughout the National Outcomes! We suggested that the government partner with us to create indicators to track the sector's economic contribution and new progress indicators for a thriving and sustainable voluntary sector.

Finally, we've held a number of events with SCVO's Policy Network, including with the Scotland Office on the sector's place in the UK Government's Levelling Up agenda.

In conclusion

As we gear up for the rest of 2023, we're excited to continue our work. With your continued support, we can create a future where voluntary organisations don't just survive—they thrive.

Finally, a huge thanks from me to the team – Jason, Sheghley, Rachel, Kyrstie – and everyone else who has worked with us this year!

Get in touch with me to discuss any of our work.

Last modified on 10 July 2023