Susan Smith believes Scotland's third sector should be very worried about Brexit
With the polls suggesting the British public will vote to leave the European Union on 23 June, Scotland’s third sector should be very worried.
For a start, at least £20 million of European funding will be lost – that’s funding that supports some of Scotland’s most vulnerable people, including helping ensure people furthest from the labour market, such as young unskilled and disabled people, get jobs.
With Scotland already experiencing higher unemployment than the rest of the UK, the loss of this funding will be devastating. Particularly as it is guaranteed the even more right-wing Tory party that will following Brexit and David Cameron’s consequent resignation will not prioritise young disabled job seekers.
£20m is a relatively small amount taken as part of the nearly £5 billion income of the whole Scottish third sector, but it is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of funding cuts following Brexit.
With economists predicting a financial crash (including an upto 20% devaluation of the pound) after Brexit, any hopes of an end to austerity will be smashed. That means even more cuts to voluntary sector services and further growth in demand for activities such as foodbanks, unemployment support, anti-poverty initiatives, and so on. Chancellor George Osborne has now announced a post-Brexit emergency budget will see tax rises and cuts to frontline services in a bid to plug a £30bn hole in the economy.
The Brexit campaign has uncovered a huge swathe of racist anti-immigration views across the population (not just in England) which is a major concern whatever the outcome
A survey carried out by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations last month revealed just 18% of Scottish third-sector workers intended to vote to leave the EU. As a constituency, the Scottish third sector sees the value of remaining in Europe, which backs up many of its campaigns in relation to human rights, the environment and poverty and regeneration.
However, the survey also found a third-sector woefully unprepared for Brexit. Perhaps our own assumptions have led to complacency, as only 18% of Scottish voluntary organisations have considered what it might mean for them and less than 10% have bothered to get involved. If we do vote to leave, this lack of preparedness may come to haunt the third sector.
From a moral point of view, the Brexit campaign has uncovered a huge swathe of racist anti-immigration views across the population (not just in England) which is a major concern whatever the outcome.
As a sector committed to equality, fairness and progress Scotland's third sector is going to have to face this head on. Should we vote to leave the EU, the impact on relationships with the many EU (and non-EU) citizens who have come to Scotland over the last 10 years, contributing positively to our society, will be a major concern. Brexit is a slap in the face to this largely working-age group of people that has helped to turn around Scotland’s declining population and create tax income to support ageing indigenous Scots.
Finally, will Brexit lead to the break up of the UK and another Scottish referendum? Only time will tell, but it certainly won’t improve internal relations.
Susan Smith is editor of Third Force News.