This website uses cookies for anonymised analytics and for account authentication. See our privacy and cookies policies for more information.

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.

Anger as chancellor launches attack on charities

This news post is over 9 years old

​George Osbourne has prompted a backlash after branding charities as anti-business

Chancellor George Osbourne launched an astonishing attack on the third sector this week, branding charities as anti-business.

He made the remarks, which were also directed at pressure groups and trade unions, in a speech to the Institute of Directors in London.

It is the latest in a Westminster onslaught against charities who have campaigned against or even simply questioned Osbourne and the London government’s austerity drive.

The chancellor told business leaders: “You have to get out there and put the business argument, because there are plenty of pressure groups, plenty of trade unions and plenty of charities and the like, that will put the counter view.

“It is, I know, a difficult decision sometimes to put your head above the parapet, but that is the only way we are going to win this argument for an enterprising, business, low-tax economy that delivers prosperity for the people and generations to come.

“There is a big argument in our country about our future, about whether we are a country that is for business, for enterprise, for the free market.”

This is a typical Tory smokescreen. They don't want charities to hold them to account about the destruction and misery their austerity policies are causing

His remarks sparked a backlash from charities. John Downie, director of public affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said: “Osbourne is presenting a false dichotomy - there is no clash between business and charities.

"This is a typical Tory smokescreen. They don't want charities and campaign groups to hold them to account about the destruction and misery their austerity policies are causing and will use any means to discredit those who hold them to scrutiny. So much for the Big Society."

SCVO chief executive Martin Sime added: “Osbourne lives in a privileged bubble which protects him from the understandable outrage of many organisations who work to support the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. He needs to get out more. But attacking charity for doing its job is really quite pathetic and counterproductive – it is a sign that our messages are hurting”

Oxfam has previously drawn the ire of Tory politicians after its Perfect Storm anti-austerity campaign came under fire earlier this year.

Nick Bryer, its head of UK campaigns and policy, said: “[Business] is vital to tackling poverty around the world, which is why we help poor people set up their own businesses and access markets. We don’t recognise the divide he draws between the concerns of businesses and charities.”

There is a growing mood of disquiet in the third sector over moves by Westminster to stifle dissent.

Last month, disgraced former civil society minister Brooks Newmark infamously suggested charities should “stick to their knitting.”

Foodbank organisers The Trussell Trust have found themselves in the firing line while justice secretary Chris Grayling has questioned the 'neutrality' of campaigning charities.

The Westminster lobbying bill (now an act) has been seen as a means of suppressing dissent – and senior government figures have brought pressure to bear on organisations that they say are acting too politically.

In Scotland, MSPs have been challenged by SCVO to protect the right of the third sector to campaign against and criticise government policy.

Charities such as theChild Poverty Action Group in Scotland and the Poverty Alliancehave hit back, rounding on Tory plans – announced last week – to freeze benefits and introduce benefits smartcards.