Publishing an SCVO manifesto would be pointless, argues John Downie, but we still want action for change
Manifestos are not a promise. They are simply a starting point for post-election negotiation.
That is why the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is not releasing an election manifesto for GE2015 – it’s a pointless exercise.
That’s not to say we don't have asks. We do.
After five years of the UK coalition government we live in a meaner country where we tolerate poverty, penalise the poorest and most vulnerable in society and blame portions of the population for our ills – “scroungers”, immigrants, asylum seekers etc. There is much we need to change.
In the third sector we stand for a society where all are included, valued and supported. Where no-one is left behind.
The voices of the vulnerable, the poorest and people and communities throughout the UK are not being heardJohn Downie
Voluntary organisations and wider civil society has always been vocal about what matters in our country, the role government should have and what policies should be adopted.
But not in this election.
The UK government’s hostility and attempts to muzzle the campaigning ambitions of charities is odious. The Lobbying Act is the culmination of a clamour to close down all dissident voices, including trade unions.
The real damage is that the voices of the vulnerable, the poorest and people and communities throughout the UK are not being heard.
In Scotland we have a healthy and robust relationship between parliament, government and the third sector, and a joint agenda in building a socially just Scotland.
Scotland's third sector and wider civil society have long recognised that we need a different approach to poverty, democracy and the economy.
We want a country that has a shared sense of purpose, is fair and prosperous, and where the entire population has the opportunity to participate on equal terms.
It is a task that will take at least two generations - something a manifesto designed to win an election conveniently ignores.
But you need to make a start, so we want the incoming UK government to: end the austerity agenda that disproportionately impacts on the poorest; commit to tackling increasing poverty and inequality; end welfare cuts and create a fairer system which allows people to participate fully in society; and end punitive and counterproductive sanctions which are devastating people’s lives.
Tackling inequality, gender equity, social justice and citizen participation are at the heart of many third sector missions in building a socially just Scotland.
To accelerate how we tackle this, in Scotland at least, we need the Smith Commission powers to be delivered with the full devolution of powers relating to welfare, employability and equalities.
This means: the devolution of all welfare and employability powers and their accompanying benefits, except pensions; the devolution of a portfolio taxes and taxpayer base to generate income, which includes any associated tax support for charities such as VAT relief; and the full devolution of equality law to better align equality with devolved policy areas such as housing, health, education, employment and justice.
We also want the immediate cancellation by the new UK government of the renewed contracts for the Work Programme and a halt to the roll out of Universal Credit in Scotland.
That, alongside using our existing powers more effectively, will be a starting point for a progressive, people-led approach to doing things differently and better.
The third sector knows and has been clear on what it wants - we don't need a manifesto to articulate it.
We want an ambitious and positive government that aims to create a more equal society and more vibrant communities, a modern economy which works for the many not the few, and a more engaged and participative democracy.
This election will decide who governs the UK not - despite all the manifestos promises - the policies it will follow.
John Downie is SCVO's director of public affairs.