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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.

Programme for Government proposal 2024/25: Transparent voluntary sector funding

Summary of proposals   

Our proposals for the 2024/2025 Programme for Government cover two areas: 

  1.    Delivering Fair Funding by 2026
  2. Transparent funding

This paper focuses on transparent funding which is essential for everyone’s understanding of Scottish Government’s investment in the voluntary sector.

Transparent funding would enable voluntary organisations, civil servants, scrutiny bodies, and others, to better understand Scottish Government decisions, funding flows, and budget changes, and to engage with government on their potential impacts on voluntary organisations, their staff and volunteers, and the communities they work with.

Transparent funding data is also essential to recognise progress towards the Scottish Government commitment to fairer funding for the voluntary sector by 2026.


SCVO welcomes the ongoing programme of work being undertaken within Scottish Government to progress fiscal transparency.

This work recognises the many benefits of transparent, open, and accessible fiscal data and budget processes. Transparent data can support, a better understanding of spending decisions and how funding flows from the Scottish Government to voluntary and other sectors, assessment of the positive, negative, or neutral impact of spending decisions, and participation in the Scottish Budget and other financial processes.  

Transparent funding data is also essential for the voluntary sector, the many supportive MSPs across parliament, and the Scottish Government itself, to monitor progress towards the former First Minister’s very welcome and much needed commitment to achieve fairer funding for the sector by 2026.

To support these aspirations in the Programme for Government the Scottish Government should commit to:  

Adopt the 360Giving Data Standard bypublishing awards to the 360Giving data standard, including basic identifier core fields such as recipient name, organisation, and charity number.  
Include all spending in the Scottish Government’s monthly reports and improve categories to ensure data is useful and accessible. 
Collect funding information across all government departments and produce a breakdown of Scottish Government funding to the voluntary, public, and private sectors by department and budget line.
Publish annually the Scottish Government’s total direct investment in voluntary organisations from grants and contracts.
Within this data, Scottish Government should monitor progress towards fairer funding including collecting and publishing what proportion of grants and contracts are:  Delivered on a multi-year basis. Core or projected funded.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.
Engage with the sector to ensure the aims of greater fiscal transparency are realised and offer users the clear accessible information needed to follow the money, contribute to and reflect on the budget process, and understand progress towards fairer funding.


The Scottish Exchequer recognises that the current presentation of fiscal information is not accessible or presented in a way that meets most users' needs.  SCVO welcomes this recognition and the aspirations shared in the Scottish Exchequer: fiscal transparency discovery report and the Open Government Action Plan (2021-25) to improve financial transparency by providing clear and more accessible fiscal data for budgeting to enable users to “follow the money”. These reports outline in detail the many benefits of fiscal transparency for all stakeholders.

Similarly, during pre-Budget scrutiny for the 2023-2024 Scottish Budget, the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, the Finance and Public Administration Committee, and the Social Justice and Social Security Committee all discussed the need for budget transparency to ensure data transparency, participation, and accountability and progress towards the National Outcomes. These concerns continued to be raised by Committees scrutinising the 2024-2025 Scottish Budget, including the Finance and Public Administration Committee.

The Social Justice and Social Security Committee have also stressed that better data collection is needed to help target new and existing social justice policies and that data sharing needs to be improved to anticipate service delivery needs, a view shared by many colleagues in the voluntary sector.

SCVO welcome these contributions. In the current challenging financial context, fiscal transparency is essential to enable the Scottish Government to collaborate more effectively with the sector on solutions based on expertise, experience, and evidence, leading to more effective policy decisions and better targeted resource allocation, improving outcomes.

Similarly, transparent funding should support a wider understanding of how investment in the voluntary sector contributes to Scottish Government priorities. Understanding funding flows will also support the scrutiny of voluntary organisations, civil servants, and scrutiny bodies, such as Audit Scotland and the Scottish Parliament, allowing more informed assessment of the positive, negative, or neutral impact of spending decisions and progress on Scottish Government priorities and commitments.

Financial transparency is also essential for SCVO and colleagues across the voluntary sector to understand funding flows to the voluntary and other sectors and the scale of direct Scottish Government investment in the sector - estimated by SCVO to be around £849 million annually in 2021. Currently, official data from Scottish Government on direct voluntary sector funding is not available.

Similarly, data on Fair Funding criteria, such as multi-year funding commitments and uplifts, is not collected. This data is essential for voluntary organisations, parliament, and government to understand how well the government is delivering on the Scottish Government’s fairer funding commitments for the voluntary sector.


Over the last year the Scottish Exchequer has restated its commitment to increase civic trust through timely, understandable, accessible, and reusable fiscal information to enable scrutiny and progress the commitments in the Open Government Action Plan.

SCVO welcomes the progress on Open Government commitments and encourage the Exchequer to engage with the Fairer Funding team within the Third Sector Unit to ensure data to support the sector and others to monitor progress towards fairer funding is included. Ensuring investment in the voluntary sector is considered and included within this work - and other programmes to improve funding transparency - will also avoid duplication in the future. Engagement with the sector is essential to ensure that the sector is included in efforts to shape transparent, accessible financial data systems which can support the sector to understand and engage with fiscal data and events.

We appreciate that improving data infrastructure is both time consuming and complex, however, publishing voluntary sector funding data in accessible formats is key to increasing transparency and accountability. The Scottish Government could build real value into the data they currently publish and allow users to quickly drill down into the charitable and voluntary sector data by mirroring the UK Cabinet Office model, which publishes a Government Grants Register and grants data on the 360Giving platform, ensuring that published awards data meet the 360Giving data standard. 

This recommendation has previously been made by the Social Renewal Advisory Board’s Third Sector Circle, who called for Scottish Government funding of the voluntary sector “across all Scottish Government departments and local government to be published on the “360Giving platform”. Adopting the 360Giving data standard would facilitate publishing awards to the 360Giving platform making the data more accessible and allowing Scottish Government awards to be viewed as part of the bigger picture that includes UK Government grants, lottery grants, and independent grant funders.    

These actions will complement the Scottish Government’s aspirations to improve fiscal transparency and support the voluntary sector’s vital work with people and communities across Scotland.  


The success of the Open Government Action Plan and the Scottish Exchequer fiscal transparency programmes will be measured by the volume and quality of fiscal information and the extent to which a diverse range of stakeholders can access and engage with fiscal data leading to better decision-making processes and quality outcomes for people and communities across Scotland. 

By committing to the actions described in this paper, the Programme for Government can ensure actions taken within government to improve fiscal transparency support civil society to understand spending decisions and what they mean for both voluntary organisations and the people and communities voluntary organisations work with.

Our calls are also essential for voluntary organisations, MSPs, scrutiny bodies, and Scottish Government to understand and measure progress towards Fair Funding for Scotland’s voluntary sector and ensure Scottish Government’s commitment to fairer funding by 2026 is realised.

Last modified on 27 June 2024