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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.

Policy perspectives: will we really have a fresh start?

This opinion piece is 11 months old

Sheghley Ogilvie looks ahead to the Humza Yousaf's first Programme for Government

Over the last few years Scottish and British politics has been anything but boring.

Since the 2016 Brexit referendum voluntary organisations across the sector have adapted our policy priorities for five UK prime ministers, two general elections, a pandemic, rising inflation and the resulting cost of living and running costs crises. We have also tolerated what, to me at least, has seemed like endless political plots, point-scoring and intra-party bickering.

Through all this turmoil Nicola Sturgeon has been an ever-present and familiar figure. The first minister’s shock resignation in February therefore felt like another dip into uncertainty on a political rollercoaster that we have all become increasingly accustomed to.

Once again, the annual policy cycle was interrupted. Whether familiar Scottish Government policies would remain priorities for a new first minister and cabinet team was also unclear, a headache for policy wonks.

Following a few months of uncertainty, a new first minister, Humza Yousaf, was selected, his cabinet appointed and his policy prospectus delivered.

Suddenly, key dates in the Scottish Government calendar are on the horizon, including the Programme for Government (PfG), a staple of the political calendar in Scotland, which will take place as usual in early September.

The programme will include the legislation, policy initiatives, consultations and bills that the new FM will put before MSPs to progress the priorities he introduced in the policy prospectus, New leadership - A fresh start, many of which are similar to those of his predecessor - a relief for those of us in the notoriously slow moving field of policy who had seen some progress on our priorities.

The Medium-Term Financial Strategy also offers some fiscal context and further insight into what is likely to be included, and perhaps where to focus for organisations with limited policy capacity to submit proposals before the government’s sign-off process begins in August.

SCVO has focused its proposals in three areas essential to supporting a sustainable Scottish voluntary sector that people and communities across Scotland rely on.

Delivering Fair Funding by 2026 

In, New leadership - A fresh start, the Scottish Government committed to fairer funding for the voluntary sector, including exploring options to implement multi-year funding deals.

SCVO has advocated for fair funding for the voluntary sector for many years and welcomes these commitments. Over the next year, significant progress is needed to build the foundations necessary to achieve fair funding, a long-term, flexible, sustainable and accessible approach to funding, by 2026.

Transparent voluntary sector funding

Both New leadership - A fresh start, and the Medium-Term Financial Strategy recognise the need for fiscal transparency.

As financial pressures intensify, understanding Scottish Government spending decisions becomes increasingly important. Transparent funding is essential for voluntary organisations, civil servants, scrutiny bodies, and others, to better understand Scottish Government spending decisions and assess their impact.

Charity regulation for a modern voluntary sector.

During the legislative process for the Charities (Regulation and Administration) (Scotland) Bill, the cabinet secretary for social justice committed to a wider review of charity regulation following the passing of the bill.

Our sector supports an independent review of charity regulation in Scotland that recognises the role of modern charities and expects this review to be included in the PfG.

Over the last year, pressure on voluntary organisations, our workforce, volunteers, and the people and communities we work with, has steadily intensified.

Our sector is a vital employer, partner and social and economic actor, central to the fairer and more equal Scotland the Scottish Government aspires to. The PfG is an opportunity for the new first minister and the cabinet team to recognise and support the many contributions of voluntary organisations, their staff and their volunteers across Scotland.

After years of underappreciation and building frustration about the voluntary sector funding environment, let’s hope the PfG reflects the fresh start the first minister has promised.

Sheghley Ogilvie is policy and public affairs officer at The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).