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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.

BBC underlines sector's role in every part of society

Getting a 10-year-old, a dog and two not yet sufficiently caffeinated adults up and ready for the day means my house is pretty hectic in the morning, so I don’t normally catch up with the news until I get to my desk.  Last Thursday, though, I was listening out for the BBC coverage of the Third Sector Tracker, so I tuned in bright and early to Good Morning Scotland on Radio Scotland. 

As I listened to Scotland’s news unfold, story after story underlined how the voluntary sector plays a role in almost every aspect of our society.  It’s sometimes hard to convey the breadth and the value of our #EssentialSector, so I thought I’d try to capture some of what came across in just those few stories. 

Environmental issues were top of the agenda, with a new report confirming the rise in global temperatures and Labour preparing to row back on previous funding commitments.  I had barely opened my eyes at 6am when I heard Friends of the Earth Scotland giving their reaction to those stories – a terrific example of the sector’s role as a campaigner.  This was reinforced later in the programme when the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations introduced their latest findings on the impact of the housing crisis, and later in the day I heard Alcohol Focus Scotland commenting on  minimum alcohol pricing, another of the day’s big stories.  Without the voluntary sector contributing to debate and holding government to account on these issues, not only would there be much less news, our democracy and decision making would be much poorer for it. 

Next up was the Auditor General for Scotland, discussing Audit Scotland’s recent report on progress towards a Wellbeing Economy.  The voluntary sector plays a key role in the wellbeing economy, with our contribution to public service and civil society helping to create an environment for business and investment. Through supporting the employment prospects of those furthest from the labour market, tackling digital exclusion, providing social care and housing, undertaking vital medical and environmental research, or running most of our theatres, museums, galleries, and sports clubs, Scotland’s voluntary organisations are integral to Scotland’s economic and social fabric. The sector plays a fundamental role in the foundational economy, in helping to mitigate and tackle the impacts of poverty and inequality that are such a drain on economic and societal wellbeing, or in the aspirational development of a wellbeing economy.   Yet this vital role is often overlooked.  The Auditor General referred in particular to the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, sharing our frustrations on the slow pace of progress.  We’ve been working with Euan Aitken from Cyrenians (who sits on the NSET Advisory Board) to try to ensure that the sector’s key role in the economy is understood within that work, but it has felt like an uphill battle at times, and there’s much still to be done to ensure that the sector’s role is valued in those spheres. 

And finally, as they say, the last story of the morning was an interview with an environmental activist who has set up a climate choir in Leith, a phenomenal example of the kind of community-based activity that makes up so much of our #EssentialSector.  A story about community toilets also reminded me of the important work that communities take on to maintain and improve their local areas. 

While I can’t speak for the organisations that featured in the news that morning, I can tell you three quarters of voluntary organisations just like them are facing financial difficulties.  It was great to hear that fact reflected in the coverage of our most recent Third Sector Tracker results, although the heartbreaking story of support services for people with Alzheimer's having to be cut as a result was difficult to hear.  While it was encouraging to hear the response from Sottish Government reference a continued intention to look at multi-year funding in the coming financial year, we will continue to keep up pressure until we see tangible actions. 

Last modified on 12 February 2024