Alison Johnstone writes for TFN ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections
As the Scottish Green Party’s lead on both health and social security for the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with many organisations from Scotland’s dynamic third sector, and there are too many organisations to name who have provided me with valuable insight and connections with the people they support and give a voice to. I am extremely grateful for this support, as I’m sure all MSPs have been.
For example, when I introduced amendments to the new social security legislation to ensure fewer unnecessary sanctions and assessments, support from the third sector was invaluable.
The devolution of new powers over social security was an enormous opportunity to do things differently from the punitive culture fostered by the UK welfare system.
I’m grateful for the support from Citizens Advice Scotland, The Poverty Alliance, the Child Poverty Action Group and others, who all contributed and shaping by providing expert input and ensuring we heard directly from those who need and use the services.
I know that the children's charities played an enormous role in making sure my colleague John Finnie's equal protection bill became law.
While the work of all of these organisations is invaluable, one thing that has struck me is the work they do is too often hampered by funding cycles of only one or three years. How is an organisation that provides essential support to vulnerable people expected to do any long-term planning on that basis?
Instead, what I have seen is very effective fire-fighting, while much energy is spent on the cycle of funding applications. It’s clear to me that third sector funding cycles should be longer. Why not the length of a parliamentary term? If MSPs are voted in for five years, why shouldn’t third sector organisations be awarded that timescale? This would empower them to drive change in Scotland in a way they simply cannot do know. I think this simple change would allow the third sector to play a strategic role in our green recovery from the pandemic.
The Scottish Greens will commit to working with third sector partners in our manifesto, to support vulnerable people claim the benefits they are entitled to, ensure that the rights of tenants are upheld and to provide vital support to refugees who are badly treated by the UK immigration system.
I believe the work to create a fairer, greener Scotland has only just begun, and as we recover from one crisis and face up to the urgency of the climate crisis, more than ever we need to work together to build something new. Our future depends on it.
Alison Johnstone is co-leader of the Scottish Greens in the Scottish Parliament.