Urgent call on Scottish Government to resolve EU funding crisis
Voluntary organisations across Scotland could go out of business after £22 million of essential European Union (EU) funding was frozen.
Some European Social Fund (ESF) grants, which mostly go to local authorities and third sector groups, were suspended over problems with how the Scottish Government administers the cash.
Audits by Brussels in September 2017 and last July said there were “deficiencies in the functioning of the management and control systems” in Scotland.
The EU gives the cash to the Scotland via the Holyrood government which in turn distributes cash to councils and other agencies. It is then distributed onwards to voluntary organisations and charities.
Most of the cash is used to support deprived communities, helping with everything from employment to emergency food programmes. Last year Scotland received £412m EU funding.
Thousands of Scottish organisations providing vital services to communities are reliant on the cash.
Anna Fowlie, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations’ chief executive, said the situation needs to be fixed urgently or vital organisations working with society’s most vulnerable face closure.
She said: “We have had concerns about the process for managing European funding for some time and have been pressing Scottish Government to address them.
“Third sector providers have been working in good faith with the most vulnerable people in our communities who desperately need support into work.
“While the delay or even loss of this funding hits local authorities hard, it looks increasingly likely that long standing and successful third sector organisations will go out of business.
“That is not only awful for those organisations and their staff, it has a huge impact on the people they support.
And Fowlie warned: “The situation has now become urgent and ministers need to intervene to find a solution now, keeping the sector included and informed at every stage.”
Initially a Scottish Government spokeswoman said the issues were not unique to Scotland and that currently there are “audit issues affecting ESF programmes across the UK.”
However once the story broke, the spokeswoman said: “We absolutely understand the concerns of the SCVO and Scotland’s third sector providers. That’s why ministers are determined to avoid any charity or third sector body going out of business as a result of this issue. Instead, we are working to resolve this situation as quickly as possible.”
Cosla president Alison Evison wants talks “to clarify what steps we need to make as partners to resolve this issue as quickly as possible."