Brexit: the third sector must take back control


Martin Sime says the result of the EU referendum will have a profound impact on the third sector in Scotland 

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24th June 2016 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

There will be many people waking up today with a sense of disbelief. This changes everything. Our cosy assumptions about the best of both worlds have evaporated. We might now have to choose between unions.

The divergent result also highlights a cultural rift which has been growing for the last two decades – we are a different country with different values, and a different sense of our place in the world.

Many in the third sector look to Europe as a place to learn, where our contributions are recognised and welcomed. Years of transnational work, often supported by arcane funding programmes, has helped us make common cause on the many issues and priorities we have for the people we serve. That is all under threat.

Martin Sime

Martin Sime

This is a seismic shock to our politics and economy which will have a profound affect

Twenty-five years ago a partnership between the European Commission and our sector led to the fightback against Thatcherism on the back of the idea that social inclusion – that everyone has a right to be involved, and that politicians and civil society have an obligation to engage those on the margins. This fight will go on.

But this is a seismic shock to our politics and economy which will have a profound affect. Those who have cried wolf too often about public sector austerity – which has barely scratched the surface of our bloated public sector in Scotland – will shortly discover the costs of this mistaken, damaging, and profoundly unwelcome decision.

And yet we need to respect the views of those who think they have just won their country back, even if the reality of what emerges is a shrivelled, angry, and deeply divided society which is uncomfortable in its own skin. Of course we may question whose country even more now because we did not recognise many of the sentiments – irrational, racist, reactionary – that characterised the leave campaign. But, regardless, whoever belongs to this country needs to fix it for themselves.

Self-directedness is more than a new way for organising social care – it speaks to a basic tenet of voluntary organisation – people need to feel a sense of control over their own lives if they are going to succeed. Just how that sentiment emerges in Scotland over the coming weeks is critical to our futures. There are no more phoney devolution wars: hard choices have to be made and the third sector must be front and centre in that debate.