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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.

"Simply nothing there": SCVO hits out at ministers as PfG offers little to sector

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SCVO had pushed for the inclusion of measures which could help the third sector survive the ongoing #RunningCostsCrisis.

The national membership body for Scotland’s voluntary organisations has criticised the lack of support for the third sector from the Scottish Government. 

On Tuesday ministers in Holyrood published the Programme for Government (PfG) for 2022-23, outlining the government’s legislative plans for the year ahead. 

A number of measures to help the public through the ongoing cost of living crisis were announced, including a rent freeze and moratorium on evictions. 

The First Minister also called on the UK Government to freeze energy prices at their current levels, including applying this freeze to “to businesses and to the public and third sectors”.

Many of the measures were welcomed by campaigns and third sector groups, who have been at the forefront of pushing for change.

However, the lack of detail and offering to the sector itself in a time of crisis has now been raised, with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) claiming there is “simply nothing there” for the sector.

Rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis have left organisations across the sector struggling with a running costs crisis while demand for services soars and fundraising is undermined. 

SCVO had stressed prior to publication that funding security was essential to support a resilient voluntary sector which can survive the running costs crisis, support people and communities in danger, offer Fair Work, and deliver quality outcomes. 

SCVO, which has over 3,000 members, has criticised the Government for failing to address how they will invest in charities, community groups, and social enterprises in both the short and longer term.

Anna Fowlie, SCVO chief executive, said: “There are elements in the Programme for Government that parts of our sector will welcome. There are elements that other parts will find frustrating.

“For the sector as a whole there is only the charity bill. That’s a technical bill - essential maintenance. The Programme for Government and the imminent budget are opportunities to address the long-standing issues charities, community organisations and social enterprises face. And yet there is nothing. The needs of the sector, even those that cost nothing, are simply invisible.

Anna Fowlie, SCVO chief executive

“I would prefer to publish a detailed statement welcoming or challenging the Scottish Government’s programme at a time when we face an existential threat perhaps greater than the pandemic. But I can’t. There is simply nothing there.”

Following the announcement, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This Programme for Government is published in the context of the most severe cost crisis in many of our lifetimes. It is a crisis pushing millions into poverty and poses a genuine danger, not just to livelihoods, but to lives.

“The Scottish Government is already committed to a range of measures, worth almost £3 billion this year, that will help with rising costs. But the magnitude of what is being experienced by people and businesses means that mitigation is nowhere near sufficient. What is needed now is action on a scale similar to the initial Covid response.

“Regrettably, the powers to act in the manner and on the scale needed do not lie with this Parliament. In my view, they should lie here. If they did, we could have acted already. But they don’t. These powers are reserved to Westminster.

“The cost crisis means this Programme for Government is more focussed than ever before – deliberately so – with priority actions to provide help now.

“To that end we will provide more help for people who may be at risk of self-rationing or even self-disconnection from their energy supply and we will double the Fuel Insecurity Fund to £20 million this year.

“We will also propose emergency legislation to put in place a rent freeze until at least March and a moratorium on evictions.

“Given the powers to act in the manner and on the scale needed do not lie with this Parliament, this Programme for Government also provides for a Scottish Independence Referendum Bill. Independence would give us – like it does other independent countries – the levers we desperately need to respond to a crisis such as this. That’s the prize we surely must grasp.”