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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.

The referendum – can we all be winners?

This opinion piece is over 8 years old

Adrienne Airlie, chief executive of Martin Aitken & Co, questions which referendum outcome would be best for the third sector

Adrienne Airlie
Adrienne Airlie

I have to admit to being confused over the outcome for the third sector from the forthcoming referendum debate.

If you review material from both sides, then either yes or no, we will all be winners.

Even recent well considered but opposing articles in Third Force News from Gavin Corbett of Third Sector Yes and Melanie Ward who supports remaining part of the UK only serve to add to my confusion.

There are very few polls where everyone in the process can be called a winner; the only one I am aware of is the People’s Choice Awards at the Scottish Charity Awards, which we are delighted to sponsor. Fife Gingerbread was awarded this year’s People’s Choice Award but, in my view, all entrants are winners – the choice was about this year’s favourite. Over 19,000 votes from over 28 countries decided on this. In such a vote, the question was simple.

So is my confusion regarding the referendum simply that although the question is a simple yes or no, the ramifications for the third sector of either option are truly mired in complexity?

So is my confusion regarding the referendum simply that although the question is a simple yes or no, the ramifications for the third sector of either option are truly mired in complexity?

Voting is a formal expression of opinion or choice, either positive or negative, made by an individual or body of individuals. So action is needed and a choice has to be made on 18 September.

As a charity accountant and adviser I am now noting the practical issues and questions arising in the charities we act for as they prepare for September 2014.

Head office location is an issue for charities receiving European funding, and there’s the consideration that in the event of a yes vote they will need to at least have a base outwith Scotland to act from.

Would they also need a separate Charity Commission registration and technically become a cross border-operation?

Art charities are already seeing a temporary halt on grant funding from English charitable trusts, which are concerned that a yes vote would mean such grants were no longer within their charitable purposes and domain. Are other similar charities experiencing this?

The no campaign believes the complexity and costs of building the infrastructure in an independent Scotland is a reason to stay part of the UK. Though with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator we already have a robust and well-established regulator, so there would be no change needed there. However, think of your own area of operations – are you currently regulated by a UK-wide body?

Health is also a concern. Are crucial research grants from UK-wide bodies secure regardless of the outcome of the referendum?

And finally, fundraising is the big concern for the third sector. Do you benefit from a UK-wide supporter base and how could this be impacted?

I would urge that discussions begin at all levels of your organisation about the matters that impact on you.

The bottom line is to ensure the beneficiaries of Scotland’s charities are better off by the choice we all make on 18 September 2014.

Adrienne Airlie is chief executive of Martin Aitken & Co, one of Scotland’s leading accountants and business advisers to the charity sector.



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