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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.

Strengthening Scotland’s Voice in Europe

Rachel Le Noan blogs on the importance of the voluntary sector's voice in Europe, and how you can have your say.

As daily news reminds us, world politics and dynamics are powerful and have consequences for us all, no matter where we live. Next year won’t be an exception with elections due in the UK and in the United States, as well as European parliamentary elections.

The results of these elections will without a doubt affect the relationship between the UK and the European Union (EU), the question is to what extent. Back in 2021, and five years after the Brexit vote, the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) created two structures for civil society to engage with decision makers on its implementation, and its impact on communities: a Domestic Advisory Group (DAG) and a UK/EU Civil Society Forum (CSF).

At a recent event at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on the alignment between EU law and UK and Scots law (which highlighted the first findings from the European Union Law Tracker), Dr Lisa Claire Whitten highlighted the importance of stakeholders in the TCA and the need for civil society to have a voice, amongst others. I couldn’t agree more.

From Levelling Up to human rights and environmental regulations, voluntary organisations have experience, expertise and knowledge to share. Now feels like a good time to assess what has happened over the past seven years, what could happen in the coming months and years, and the impact on the communities and people we support. And we need to hear from you.

At SCVO we believe in the power of interdependence and partnership working. We are therefore a member of the Scotland Advisory Forum on Europe (SAFE) which was formed last spring to promote Scotland’s voice in Europe. Irene Oldfather from The Alliance is also SCVO’s representative on the DAG (she is co-vice-chair of the group). Irene’s role is important. It gives us a chance to make a case for the contribution of the voluntary sector to the economy. This is too often an afterthought.

The voluntary sector is a key actor in the establishment of a sustainable and inclusive economy. The parameters of the TCA may not allow us to discuss every issue that matters to the sector, but it does give us an opportunity to ascertain the role of the voluntary sector and its interests.

A review of the TCA is due to take place in 2026 and the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee has launched a consultation on the agreement (opened until 30 November) so that they ‘can contribute to the discussions at the UK and EU level that may take place in the run up to such a review’. So, what are the issues that we should raise?

This is not about reframing the debate on the relation between the UK and the EU. This is about ensuring that the role of the voluntary sector is acknowledged and valued in an ever-changing political landscape. The UK may not be in the EU anymore, but it will always be in Europe.

Do you have any thoughts or experience you want to share? If so please get in touch with me at

Last modified on 19 April 2024