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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

“A missed opportunity”: third sector slams Scottish budget plans

This news post is 7 months old

SCVO said the sector is “being squeezed by the cost of living and running costs crises”

Scotland’s third sector continues to be an afterthought to the Scottish Government’s future planning, with voluntary organisations warning there was “little evidence” of progress towards Fair Funding in its latest budget.

On Tuesday the Scottish Government published its 2024/25 draft budget, outlining the SNP-Green administration’s spending plans for next year. 

However, little mention of the sector was given, with just fleeting mentions of “Fairer Funding” for the third sector, and no detail on other planned overhauls of funding for voluntary organisations and charities. 

The government’s budget document reiterates ministers’ commitment to the third sector - who did not feature during Shona Robison’s speech to parliament.  The budget document states: “Our work on efficiency levers will include a review of grant models in operation, guided by our commitments to Fairer Funding for the third sector.”

Following the SCVO Gathering in November, First Minister Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government is “committed to working with the sector to provide greater clarity and stability in challenging economic times”.

Yousaf said in November: “So in terms of multi-year funding, we are of course working on the budget – it’s a pivotal time to be with you at the Gathering. 

“We are very much in that budget process as we speak, and I can absolutely give you firm assurance that work, consideration, of how we give you stability in terms of funding, multi-year funding, is very much underway.

“In fact, the cabinet secretary for social justice - who I think you'll be hearing from, or she’ll certainly be at the Gathering later today - has instructed officials around the current funding process, and once we've completed that work, that budget work, later next month, we'll be able to advise to what extent we can bring forward multi-year funding - and that should include, absolutely will include, a greater number of at least two-year grants where we can, and if we go further we will seek to absolutely do that.”

Despite this pledge, no mention of proposed overhauls to sector funding was made, which have been outlined in detail by the voluntary sector representatives

Chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), Anna Fowlie, said: “The draft budget represents a missed opportunity to set out vital support for Scotland’s voluntary sector – at a time when it is being squeezed by the cost-of-living and running costs crises.  

 “While we welcome the Scottish Government’s commitments to move towards Fair Funding for Scotland’s voluntary sector by 2026, there was little evidence of that today.  

“The UK government delivered a modest but welcome package of running costs support for voluntary organisations in England – as part of the Spring Statement. Today, at the very least, the Scottish Government could have committed to doing the same here in Scotland. The sector is still waiting on any such commitment.

“While we recognise the challenging financial environment, the sector needs more than warm words and missed opportunities. Just last month the first minister told assembled voluntary organisations at the Gathering that he'll move beyond warm words and put money where his mouth is. Today we didn’t see that.  

“We need to see meaningful support for the sector, with urgent progress on Fair Funding to safeguard essential services. We stand ready to support the Scottish Government to deliver that progress.”

Alan Stevenson, CEO of Volunteer Scotland, added: "Volunteers are not immune to the effects of the challenging fiscal framework that has shaped this budget. It is critical that the difficult decisions which will inevitably result from this budget do not lead to further pressure on volunteers to step up."

For social care providers in the sector, the Scottish Government confirmed it was providing funding to allow for worker pay rises from next year. 

Deputy First Minister and Scottish Government Finance Secretary, Shona Robison, said: “We are supporting hard-working social care and early learning and childcare workers in the private, third and independent sectors by providing over £200 million additional funding to raise pay to at least £12 per hour from April 2024.”

Those representing third sector care providers said this was a disappointing budget. 

The Coalition of Care & Support Providers wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “A disappointing announcement from the Scottish Government for the 2024/25 budget so far. With the social care pay increase remaining at £12 p/h from April, tracking the RLW and no more. 

“Where is the Scottish Government’s commitment to equality, opportunity and community to the social care sector?”

Following the decision taken earlier in 2023, Robison also committed to an uplift in culture funding, supporting many in the third sector. 

She told MSPs: “As the first instalment of delivering the First Minister’s commitment to double arts and culture funding, we will increase funding for culture in 2024-25 by £15.8 million. Restoring funding to Creative Scotland for utilising their reserves this year, and more.

“This is only the first step on the route to investing at least £100 million more in arts and culture by 2028-29. And our aim is to increase arts and culture investment in 2025-26 by at least a further £25 million.”

In a statement, Creative Scotland said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget for Creative Scotland for 2024/25.

“Our Grant in Aid budget for 2024/25, subject to approval by the Scottish Parliament, will be just over £68m, compared to £55m the current financial year.

“The Creative Scotland Board will meet this week for an initial discussion on the Draft Budget settlement and further statements will be made as appropriate.”