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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.

How can the new First Minister support the voluntary sector in his first Programme for Government? 

Each year at the beginning of September, the Scottish Government delivers its Programme for Government (PfG), a set of actions that the government will take over the next year to progress its priorities.  

Specifically, the programme will include the legislation, policy initiatives, consultations, and Bills that the new First Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP, will put before MSPs to progress priorities he introduced in the policy prospectus, New leadership - A fresh start, many of which are similar to those of his predecessor - a relief for those of us in the notoriously slow moving field of policy who had seen some progress. 

The Medium-Term Financial Strategy also offers some fiscal context and further insight into what is likely to be included- and perhaps where organisations with limited policy capacity should focus their attention- in what is expected to be a shorter and more focused programme.  

While the PfG may seem some time off, the window for influence is closing. Proposals should be shared with Scottish Government contacts over the next few weeks before the sign-off process begins in August. 

SCVO have focused our proposals in three areas essential to supporting a sustainable Scottish voluntary sector that people and communities across Scotland rely on. 

Delivering Fair Funding by 2026  

SCVO continue to stress that a sustainable voluntary sector is essential for organisations across the sector to fully contribute to the Scottish Government’s National Outcomes, and that Fair Funding must underpin this.  

In the First Minister’s policy prospectus, the Scottish Government committed to Fairer Funding arrangements for the voluntary sector by 2026.  

SCVO has worked with the sector for many years onFair Funding, a long-term, flexible, sustainable, and accessible approach to funding. To ensure progress is made in 23/24, SCVO is calling for the PfG to:  

1. Align Scottish Government’s Fairer Funding principles with SCVO’s definition of Fair Funding – developed through significant research and engagement with the voluntary sector.

2. Ahead of the 2024/25 Scottish Budget and annual funding round, review and significantly improve the Scottish Government’s grant-making systems to address poor fund management approaches and create a framework for regular re-evaluation to ensure timely decision-making, communications, and payments.

3. Introduce multi-year funding across a number of Scottish Government funds and report on the impact of this change to develop a multi-year funding model as standard by 2026. 

4. Establish transparent delivery goals, timelines, and accountability mechanisms – such as reporting and stakeholder groups - to ensure progress on Fairer Funding can be scrutinised by the voluntary sector and Parliament.    

Transparent voluntary sector funding 

As financial pressures intensify, understanding Scottish Government spending decisions becomes increasingly important.   

Transparent funding is essential for everyone’s understanding of Scottish Government’s investment in the voluntary sector and would enable voluntary organisations, civil servants, and scrutiny bodies, to better understand Scottish Government decisions, funding flows, and budget changes.  

Transparent data will also support voluntary organisations and others to assess the positive, negative, or neutral impact of spending decisions. To achieve this, SCVO is calling for the PfG to commit to:   

1. Publish awards to the 360Giving data standard including basic identifier core fields such as recipient name, organisation, and charity number. 

2. Publish annual awards data to the 360Giving platform.    

3. As an interim measure, include all significant spend, not just amounts over £25,000, in the monthly reports the government currently publishes and improve categories to ensure data is useful and accessible.  

4. Collect information across all government departments and produce a breakdown of Scottish Government funding to all sectors (voluntary, private, and public), by department and budget line. 

5. Calculate and publish the Scottish Government’s total direct funding of voluntary, private, and public sector from grants and contracts.

6. Within this data, Scottish Government should record Fair Funding progress by collecting and publishing what proportion of grants and contracts are:    

  • Delivered on a multi-year basis.   
  • Include annual uplifts.   
  • Accommodate payment of the real Living Wage, including annual increases to this rate.   
  • Communicate funding intentions at least three months in advance and make payments no later than the first day of the new financial year.  

Charity regulation for a modern voluntary sector

Over the two decades since the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005, charities, and the environment they operate in have changed significantly. 

We need a holistic approach to regulating the voluntary sector that supports the role of modern charities. 

Our sector supports an independent review of charity regulation in Scotland. The PfG should

1. Commit to resourcing a comprehensive, independent review of charity regulation in Scotland. 

2. Recognise the need for realistic costing and resources for the review which needs to engage with charities across Scotland on a full package of new regulatory measures. 

Over the last year, pressure on voluntary organisations, our workforce, volunteers, and the people and communities we work with, has steadily intensified. SCVO’s policy proposals for the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government focus on supporting an operating environment in which voluntary organisations thrive, rather than just survive. 

Our sector is a vital employer, partner, and social and economic actor, central to the fairer and more equal Scotland the Scottish Government aspires to. The Programme for Government is an opportunity for the new First Minister and the Cabinet team to recognise and support the many vital contributions of voluntary organisations, their staff, and their volunteers across Scotland. 

Read our proposals in full for the PfG here.

Last modified on 4 January 2024