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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Multi-year funding should be “default” for voluntary organisations, Scottish minister says 

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Shona Robison MSP shared her views during a committee session in the Scottish Parliament. 

Scotland’s Minister for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government has committed to moving towards multi-year funding for third sector organisations in Holyrood. 

Shona Robison told a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Social Justice and Social Security Committee on Thursday that the government was committing to increasing multi-year funding wherever possible, and multi-year settlements should be the default. 

Ms Robison was questioned by SNP MSP Paul McLennan, who asked what the government is doing to support third sector organisations. 

She said: “We recognise the impact that rising operating costs are having across society, including on charities and voluntary organisations, the third sector, and we do continue to invest widely in the third sector and have committed to increase multi-year funding wherever possible. 

“We will do that, and fairer funding principles prefer multi-year arrangements where appropriate. So we want to move to a position where multi-year grants are the default unless it is short-term funding. Which of course there will be some projects that will receive one-off, one-year funding. But where that’s not the case I’d like to move to that being the default, normal process, and I am really committed to progressing that within my portfolio.”

Ms Robison shared her view that multi-year funding is more important to retaining staff than extra funding to meet requirements around the living wage. 

Organisations applying for public sector grants will need to pay at least the real Living Wage and provide channels for staff to have a say in the workplace from July 2023.

Exceptions may only be applied to emergency funding and where an organisation is heavily dependent on grant funding and paying the real Living Wage would threaten its survival.

Ms Robison added: “The real living wage conditionality is concerned with uplifting low-paid workers to at least the real living wage and that is an important part of the fair work principles and any further pay increase an employer wishes to introduce above and beyond that, of course is a matter for the employer concerned. 

“It is a challenge for the third sector, and I don’t think we can shy away from that, but it is important that we make progress. And I think multi-year funding will, at the very least, allow organisations to plan beyond the year-to-year.”

Ahead of local government budgets being set in the coming months, Ms Robison also accepted that the financial reality for councils are challenging. 

Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy also asked the Cabinet Secretary how the scottish Government will help departments and local authorities to pay at least the real living wage. 

Ms Robison said that this was a “fair point”, and that all sectors were facing “tough times”. 

She said that moving to a position where multi-year funding is the “presumption and default” will help in the planning of budgets around that. 

Ms Robison committed to working with the Third Sector to support them as much as the Scottish Government can.

Tory MSP, Jeremy Balfour, raised concerns about real-terms cuts to local authority budgets, warning that we could see organisations close as they struggle to find funding. 

Ms Robison said the allocation to local government is “tough, and difficult and challenging” but “perhaps not an unreasonable settlement”.