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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.

Choose local and help Scotland’s third sector to make an even greater difference

This opinion piece is about 1 year old

Scotland’s charities and social enterprises represent a powerhouse when it comes to transforming our communities - making them more sustainable and fitter for the future. This is something none of us can afford to lose sight of.

Some of the most innovative and influential actions in delivering community change start in our not-for-profit sector, with people working to achieve the common good. That benefit helps stimulate community wealth. And growing community wealth is undoubtedly going to play a significant part in a healthier, stronger Scotland.

The third sector's considerable worth to our economy is often underappreciated.

Even with the massive financial challenges facing organisations of all sizes, SCVO estimates the annual turnover of the nation’s voluntary organisations as £8.5 billion. Voluntary sector spend in 2021 was a staggering £7.9 billion with the sector employing in the region of 135,000 people.

In so many ways, the benefit - socially, economically and environmentally - of charities and social enterprises is immeasurable.

They are forces for good in every community in the country. So, just as is the case for local businesses, we need to be there for them - spending with and supporting them - so that they can be there for us.

That’s a fact we are championing through the Scotland Loves Local rallying cry for people to choose local.

Supporting our local charitable enterprises will sustain critical local services - opening opportunities that may not otherwise be there to make our towns, villages and neighbourhoods better places in which to live, work and visit.

It was a fact reinforced to me in a recent visit to Social Blend in Barrhead, a cafe and gift shop run by award-winning charity Include Me 2. This is one of the places where people can spend using the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card. I was there with Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur to announce the development of a digital version of the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card (pictured,above).

The work it does to create employment and volunteering opportunities is staggering, including providing a place where people can learn skills in retail and hospitality through an acclaimed training programme.

Indeed, its passion for engaging, inspiring, empowering and connecting people, place, assets and community to bring about change, opportunity and inclusion really chimes with the hopes of Scotland Loves Local in driving the collaboration needed to create better places and lives.

At Social Blend, the support that local people provide by spending there, keeps those opportunities alive. The same is true with other organisations the length and breadth of the country.

Charities are a valuable source of spending for local businesses. We’ve seen reinforced by many - including large numbers in the care sector - using the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card as staff and volunteer rewards. These can only be spent in the region for which they are branded, meaning that spending is locked into local economies.

A vibrant third sector has an important part to play in building town centres of the future where people not only work, but live and visit for leisure too.

By asking everyone to choose local, we all do our bit to unlock that potential, tackling the triple challenge of continued recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, tackling the climate emergency and responding to the cost of living crisis.

We would love to work with partners across the third sector to champion the cause.

Kimberley Guthrie is Interim Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP), the collective behind Scotland Loves Local. STP is carrying out a short survey into the importance of choosing local. Please click here to take part. Submissions can be made until midnight on Friday May 19th.