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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Together we can achieve so much more

This opinion piece is almost 7 years old

Stewart Kirkpatrick, head of 38 Degrees Scotland, looks at what has been achieved since the Scottish wing of the group started

One of the questions I’m most often asked - aside from ‘Why do you send so many emails?’ (answer: because it works) - is ‘Why are you called 38 Degrees?’ Well, 38° is the angle at which snowflakes often come together to form an avalanche. In other words, when we come together we are unstoppable.

Scotland’s 38 Degrees members have demonstrated this over the past two years, , since 38 Degrees established a Scotland-specific operation. In this time, a staggering 300,000 members have positioned themselves as major players in Scottish life. Together, they have been key players in a wide range of major campaigns.

They have come to the aid of communities under attack from powerful big interests. They’ve supported and raised money for the fishing community of Cove Bay, under threat of eviction. Tens of thousands of them have put pressure on the government to take action to protect tenant farmers in the Lothians and Arran.

They’ve campaigned on wildlife and the environment and are now calling on the Scottish Government to go much further on tackling climate change.

Thousands of them spoke out about the quality of train services in Scotland - successfully pushing the Scottish Government to take action to force ScotRail to improve. 38 Degrees members were key in lobbying the government to move to an opt-out system of organ donation, a change which will save lives. And, through 38 Degrees, 10,000 people responded to a government consultation on improving mental health services.

The number of Scottish people taking part in our campaigns continues to grow day by day. Currently, some of the campaigns 38 Degrees are involved in are calling for more ambitious targets to tackle climate change and better funding for Scotland’s NHS.

And all of this in just two years. So why is bottom-up campaigning of this kind particularly resonating with the people of Scotland? Well, Scotland has a long and proud tradition of people-powered campaigning to make the world a better place, from the rent strikes of Mary Barbour and the campaign against the poll tax, to the bottom-up, town-hall-style democracy of the independence debate. 38 Degrees and the work our members do stands firmly in that tradition.

Indeed, 38 Degrees members don't just start and sign petitions; they write to politicians, crowdfund opinion polling, pay for investigative journalism, attend, make videos, have meals together and work in their communities to make real change happen.

With a minority government and a political landscape in which it really feels like anything can happen, the role that people-power can play is huge. Our members keep politicians and decision-makers on their toes and leave them no option but to be responsive.

Our members come from all walks of life and have a variety of perspectives. That diversity is our strength, but we all share common values of fairness, deepening democracy and protecting the planet.

When we come together, we can achieve so much more than we ever could on our own. And it’s clear that today’s society is screaming out for this positive change.