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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.

What next for the third sector in the devolution debate?

This opinion piece is over 8 years old

Martin Sime believes the third sector still has a major role to play in helping to establish new powers for Holyrood in 2015 and beyond

Now that the full weight and diversity of views about the future of devolution has descended on Lord Smith and the political parties - over 13,000 communications on every subject - the size of their task is becoming clear. And I don’t mean just reading them all.

The idea that devolution could be fixed behind closed doors by the end of the month and simply by reaching consensus among the political parties looks increasingly far-fetched.

As SCVO has reminded them in our submission, devolution is a process not an event and the complex interplay between changing patterns of service, need, population and movement in a variety of taxes, let alone big differences in delivery, for example in the NHS, work against the idea of any permanent settlement.

Martin Sime

Voluntary organisations will be straining every sinew to pursue their visions for a more just and sustainable world

Martin Sime

What has also become clear in the last few weeks is that the third sector has a huge and largely unique reservoir of experience and expertise on these issues, mostly because our organisations work through the full gamut of perspectives from service users to practice, from policy making to resourcing, and from management to governance. Lord Smith himself was hugely impressed by his interactions with voluntary organisations and their detailed knowledge about energy policy, international development, the intricacies of welfare and so on.

So what happens next? Are we all meant to just sit on our hands and wait for the great and the good to pronounce on what is good for us? Not a bit of it! Come what may, voluntary organisations will be straining every sinew and using every opportunity to pursue their visions for a more just and sustainable world, both by lobbying politicians and winning the argument on the doorstep, in the blogosphere and wherever else there are opportunities to win hearts and minds to their causes. We are driven by our missions to do so and if formal politics fails to match up to our expectations then that is a matter for regret.

The emerging vision of a participative democracy will be much more than about voting in elections, it is about people being directly involved in the decisions which affect their lives. The referendum reminded us all about the possibilities let alone the benefits which could accrue from public involvement on a grand scale. In that context, the Smith Commission and the clumsy manoeuvrings of the political parties seeking short term advantage look rather antiquated. More of the same won’t do.

Martin Sime is chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The third sector’s role in the Scotland’s political future will be debated further at the Third Sector Summit on 20 November in Glasgow.



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