UK funders admit they are unlikely to pull out of Scotland altogether but fail to commit to maintain current investment levels
Trustees of UK funders are unlikely to withdraw funding from an independent Scotland given the quality of the arts, cultural, social and scientific work being done here.
The Wellcome Trust, the UK’s biggest academic funder and the second biggest overall funder in the UK, told TFN this week it is unlikely to stop funding in Scotland after the referendum.
And a leading Scottish fundraiser said he could not believe that UK funders would turn their back on Scotland.
A TFN investigation into attitudes to the referendum in the fundraising community found no evidence that UK funding bodies are already withdrawing grants from Scotland.
However, several refused to commit to ensuring the same level of funding after a yes vote.
The Wellcome Trust manages a £16.4 billion international investment portfolio, and is the UK’s second biggest funder after the Big Lottery Fund and a major funder of scientific research in Scotland.
Nicola Perrin, its head of policy, told TFN: “We value the research we fund in Scotland, and existing grants would not be affected.
Given the excellence of the research north of the border, it is unlikely that we would withdraw funding entirely - The Wellcome Trust
“If Scotland does vote for independence, the trust would need to review eligibility criteria for funding institutions in Scotland, but we will not make any decisions until after the referendum.
“Given the excellence of the research north of the border, it is unlikely that we would withdraw funding entirely.”
The Henry Smith Charity which gives our around £25 million a year to up to 1,000 organisations across the UK for initiatives and projects that address social inequality and economic disadvantage, also said it would have to make a decision after the referendum.
Its director Nick Acland said: “If Scotland votes yes, we will review the situation at that point. If that happens, I’m not sure what our position will be. It will have to be considered by our trustees.”
However, fundraisers in Scotland have argued that UK funding bodies could ensure that Scottish organisations continue to be eligible simply by changing their criteria to cover the British Isles as a geographical area rather than a political once.
Let’s not forget the world’s biggest cultural event takes place every year in Edinburgh – are major trusts seriously going to cut themselves off from supporting that simply because it’s in Scotland? - Gavin McLellan
Gavin McLellan, an Institute of Fundraising Scotland executive member, said he has faith that UK funders will continue to support Scotland.
“A challenge will be securing a smooth transition with the major UK wide trust funders that many charities in Scotland – especially arts, culture and social regeneration sectors – rely on,” he told TFN.
“Trustees may be minded to ensure continuation of funding some of the best arts, culture and social regeneration work in UK – which is often found in Scotland.”
He added: “Let’s not forget the world’s biggest cultural event takes place every year in Edinburgh – are major trusts seriously going to cut themselves off from supporting that simply because it’s in Scotland?”
However, regardless of the outcome of the referendum, Scottish charities may have to work harder to win support from UK funders, said Nick Addington of Foundation Scotland.
“With further devolution likely even if the referendum result is no, the context for charities’ work in Scotland will continue to diverge from the rest of the UK,” explained Addington.
“Without over-stating its importance, Scotland does benefit from grants and donations from donors and charitable trusts south of the border.
“Fundraisers targeting these donors face a growing challenge to help them understand Scottish issues, appreciate why funds are needed, and how organisations here are working to make a difference.”
Funding opportunities in an independent Scotland
An independent Scotland would be in a position to create a stronger tax environment for charities, something third sector bodies have long campaigned for in the UK.
A simplification or enhancement of tax incentives for donors, making Gift Aid easier for charities to claim, creating match funding schemes, and the introduction of living legacies that allow individuals to make significant gifts to charity in their own lifetime, could all be considered.
It would then also be possible for the Scottish Government to reform VAT to ensure that charities are able to reclaim all the VAT they pay.