Melanie Ward is a Scot working for a major international development charity and believes the third sector will be better off staying part of the United Kingdom
As a Scot working for the UK arm of a large international charity, I want to respond from a personal perspective to the recent pro independence article, Backing independence for the greater good, in Third Force News.
There are thousands of third sector organisations in Scotland, working day in day out to improve the lives of people in their local communities, across Scotland, the UK and the world. The work that they do expresses values of social justice, solidarity and community and this will continue regardless of the result of the Scottish independence referendum on 18 September, but I believe we shall all be diminished if we break off from the United Kingdom.
I doubt many organisations want the disruption, dislocation, upheaval, or potential for enmity that separation will bring
There are over 800 third sector organisations at work across the border, and they tend to be big organisations employing many staff. They draw on donations and legacies, sponsored runs, read-ins and bake-offs done by and for people across the UK.
Third sector workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland do not have different values, want different things, or care more about the people living in their country than those in the rest of the UK. Nor do Scots. We feel we have a genuine solidarity, compassion and commonality that goes far beyond borders.
The sponsored runner in Glasgow who raises funding for medical research done in Leeds that helps someone in Swansea proves the strength of this union and in now way short-changes Scotland.
I doubt many organisations want the disruption, dislocation, upheaval, or potential for enmity that separation will bring. They don’t want to re-invent the wheel, disentangle generations of partnership and mutual working, or cut themselves off from a supporter-base of 63 million for one of 5 million. And let’s remember, even purely Scottish charities can draw on the enormous resource-pool of UK trusts, foundations and sponsorship from large UK companies.
Let’s remember, even purely Scottish charities can draw on the enormous resource-pool of UK trusts, foundations and sponsorship from large UK companies
We have the best of both worlds in Scotland. As a Scot, I am proud to be part of the British family of nations – I believe it makes us part of something bigger. Not surprisingly, the British Social Attitudes Survey finds that Scots feel broadly the same on most things as their fellow Britons do. Young people, especially, value not just the wider opportunities that being in Britain gives to them but also a sense of a shared culture (from Dr Who to Harry Potter). No wonder nearly every referendum debate held in high schools and universities has resulted in a majority in favour of staying part of the union.
Those voluntary organisations helping the elderly must welcome the fact that the pensions burden is spread across the entire UK (especially as Scotland’s population is ageing faster). Health and disability charities must prize highly the pooled resources and expertise they can use to pioneer cutting-edge research and development. Anti-discrimination groups must draw greater strength from giving a voice to minorities across the UK, not just up to the border.
For environmental and global development charities, it is definitely better to influence the reach and resource allocation of the world’s sixth biggest economy than reduce the third sector’s ability in the rest of the UK to bring about positive change.
I don’t want the enormous emotional and financial costs of a break-up. Wherever you live or work in the UK, we are part of a unique family of nations. The parts of our union are great, but the sum of these parts is even greater.
Melanie Ward is a Scot working for a UK international development organisation. Tweet her @melanie_ward