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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.

What is the vision?

As any keen observer of politics will be keen to remind you, 2024 is a record year for democracy. Across the globe more people than ever will go to the polls. Here in Scotland and across the UK, it looks like we will be joining in, with a General Election slated for the second half of the year. The next Scottish Parliament election – in 2026 – is also on the horizon.

Once again, we are all considering what is next. Where do things stand in the polls? What are the issues driving public opinion? Where do the political parties stand on the big issues? What are their plans for the voluntary sector? These questions, and more, were chewed over by politicians, pollsters, and pundits this week at the Holyrood Connections event, hosted by the Holyrood current affairs magazine, in partnership with SCVO and others.

The main event of the night was a panel of politicians in – as you might expect – vigorous but good-natured disagreement across the big issues of the day. Anna, SCVO’s chief executive, put a question to the panel on their plans to support the voluntary sector to not just survive, but thrive. Crosstalk and counterpoints gave way to furious agreement on the importance of our essential sector.

But what of their plans? Talk quickly turned to funding practice. Short-term funding cycles, with the uncertainty they create for voluntary organisations, must give way to a more sustainable model of multi-year funding, it was agreed.

Voluntary organisations up and down the country receive public funding to deliver a range of public goods – reducing inequality, driving improved health and wellbeing outcomes for our citizens, fostering community cohesion, and much more.  

Those voluntary organisations in receipt of public funding know all too well just how important this shift – if delivered – would be. Multi-year funding would support organisations to plan for the long-term. They could overcome barriers to recruiting, retaining and developing staff and volunteers. They would no longer be trapped in a cycle of re-applying year-on-year – wasting valuable time and resources – to continue to deliver the vital work they do.

Yes, moving to multi-year funding, of three years or more, is urgent. It is, though, just one component of delivering the Fair Funding system that SCVO advocates for – one that is long-term, flexible, sustainable, and accessible. That systemic change is necessary, overdue, and increasingly urgent – and we will continue to press the case.

The panel of politicians touched – too briefly – on the strategic importance our sector plays in Scotland’s society and economy. There was so much more to be said.  

Last week the Scottish Parliament debated a motion in the name of Kate Forbes MSP, on the economic contribution of the third sector in Scotland, inspired by the excellent Royal Society of Edinburgh’s recent report on this topic. SCVO will be doing more work in this space later in the year.

The debate is well worth your time. It gave politicians the space to consider the importance of the sector to our people, communities, society, and economy. They considered aloud what Scotland might look like if our essential sector disappeared.

Back to our panel of politicians, they too noted that for too many organisations, survival is not an inevitability - especially in the current financial circumstances. See SCVO’s Third Sector tracker for evidence of that.

Our politicians know all too well that our sector is essential for a successful, fair, and inclusive Scotland. They might be making the right noises, but progress is too slow. As we head into another election, as minds are focused, what is the vision?

Read more about SCVO’s Fair Funding work here

Last modified on 16 April 2024