The third sector is stronger as part of the UK

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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

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16th May 2014 by TFN Guest 18 Comments

Melanie Ward is a Scot working for a UK international development organisation

Melanie Ward is a Scot working for a UK international development organisation

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

13th May 2014 by Jacqueline Smith

Why wold any of this change folloing Scotland becoming independent?

14th May 2014 by Peter Chan

Can't see how any of this would change with Scotland becoming independent

14th May 2014 by Eliot Stark

The plight of those in poverty in relationship to fuel, all from privatised utilities, housing through UK but mostly London centric housing boom and bust, and of the course the brutal bedroom tax, in wages without proper social legislation for 0 hour contacts and living wage. Welfare reforms that plunge those in need into further desperation and to food banks in Scotland depriving our communities of real opportunity is not inclusive nor is it equitable for the future of those living, working and contributing in Scotland. Successive UK Governments from Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats have failed Scotland for decades in addressing the burgeoning gap between have and have not. Voting YES in September 2014 gives Scotland the opportunity to become a more equitable and fair society, looking after those in need, enshrining their human rights in a written constitution and having a proportional representative democracy. Scotland will never have this as part of a broken and iniquitous UK. Scotland has the best of nothing and the worst of social and economic policy designed to make those rich and in power remain so.

14th May 2014 by Jules Mac

Interesting that Melanie works in London and is a Labour activist. Nothing wrong in that (in fact I probably would be too if I lived in London!). But it's interesting - I barely know a soul who works in the Third Sector in Scotland who still advocates a No vote. Why is that?

14th May 2014 by Alastair Osborne

I don't think some of those commenting have read Melanie's article properly. She accepts that the Third Sector will continue to serve Scotland well whatever the outcome but that there are areas where it's impact will be greatly diminished if we opt for independence. The Third Sector would be best served by a change of Government not a constitutional change.

14th May 2014 by Eliot Stark

Having carefully read and contemplated the article and response I am bewildered at how a change in Westminster would deliver change in Scotland. The pandering of the main political parties to a different beat of the drum will never allow for the radical shift and self determination that voting YES in September will allow. A vote that allows all the rainbow of political representation as voted for by the people who live,work and contribute in Scotland to make decisions for Scotland, that deliver for Scotland. Parties voting for welfare capping, bedroom tax, continued austerity, huge would be defence spending, nuclear arsenals and continuation of a tax system unable to redistribute wealth is not going to ever benefit the people and communities that the Third Sector serves.

14th May 2014 by Third Sector Yes

Thanks for the response to Gavin's blog for Third Sector Yes - it's always good to hear another perspective, and there hasn't been enough focus on these issues in the indyref debate so far.Melanie appears confident in claiming to speak for all sorts of people: 'Voluntary organisations helping the elderly must welcome' this, or 'Health and disability charities must prize' that. Anti-discrimination groups, environmental and development charities are also spoken for.But what Melanie may not know is that these are the very groups from which Third Sector Yes derives so much of its support. It's clear to us that many of those people not only don't share Melanie's concerns, they take the precise opposite view.Third Sector Yes represents hundreds of people drawn from Scotland's third sector. Our group includes past or present leaders of many of Scotland's best-known charities.If you're ever in Scotland Melanie, please come along to a Third Sector Yes meeting. In all seriousness, you'd be very welcome (we're a friendly, open and non-tribal group) and we might even manage to persuade you of the merits of Yes!

15th May 2014 by John S

"If you're ever in Scotland Melanie, please come along to a Third Sector Yes meeting"Snidey, nasty little remark. Please raise tone of the debate....

16th May 2014 by Third Sector Yes

John, it wasn't a snide remark. It was a very genuine invitation. Shame you took it that way.

16th May 2014 by Stuart McCallum

I have just read this article with interest.However there some very general assumptions that I feel need to be highlighted.I do not believe the social values of England and Scotland are the same. I'm sure if you look back at any general election since the late 1970's (in my living memory anyway) and you will find that Scotland has voted for Labour and that England has voted for Conservative. This would strongly suggest a significant difference between the 2 nations.You only need to listen to the rhetoric about Europe and compare this with the independence debate. I have heard many people argue that the UK should leave Europe because it is too detached, doesn't hold our values etc etc yet these very same people argue EXACTLY the opposite when it comes to Scotland's future. It seems as if one set of principals and arguments fits one debate and the opposite set is draw out to fit another debate. I just don't think you can have it both ways.I am not totally convinced about this idyllic picture of UK wide charities working is harmony. I am sure I have seen stories and articles in this very newsletter highighting very public spats, disagreements and eventual splits between UK wide organisations.As for charities liking some UK wide policies, I wonder how many charities love the bedroom tax introduced by the coalition government or the draconian changes to the benefit system/Anyway only time will tell.One thing I am almost sure about is if there is a YES vote later this year, the sky will not fall down despite this being about the only consequence not mentioned by the NO campaign.

16th May 2014 by Joe McDougall

"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"Completely meaningless guff. 3rd sector workers in Finland, in Canada and New Zealand also share the same values. They want the same things - and they care about the people living in their countries (and across the world).That paragraph is emotional, but doesn't actually mean ANYTHING."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 [sic] way short-changes Scotland."Each month I donate to a charity that helps people in the USA. I don't see what they're driving at..."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."Scottish charities are already administered separately, under different legislation to English charities. A charity based in Scotland must register as a charity in England if it intends fundraising there. This is nothing new. The author needs to talk to OSCR (http://www.oscr.org.uk)The whole article is meaningless guff. It feeds on the emotion of "being British", and assets links that either don't actually exist, or where they do, are irrelevant to independence.

16th May 2014 by Heather

The third sector in Scotland will be hugely diminished if we do not vote for Independence. This woman is quite obviously biased and wring in calling it seperation. The UK goverments attack ps on the poor, disabled and vulnerable are already destroying lives and will continue to do so. With Westminster's continuing austerity agenda and Labour promising the same if not worse should they be elected, which is highly unlikely, and if the Barnett formula (with a 4billion cut to the Scottish block grant) is scrapped as all three parties in westminster want, should we stay in the union, Scotland's third sector will all but vanish. The only way to protect our poor and vulnerable and keep vital services is with a yes vote, anyone with any sense kniws that.

16th May 2014 by Heather

It would be useful to have an article on here in defence of Independence. There is a YES third sector campaign, and many online sites with masses of info about the economics of Independence etc. Wings over Scotland, Bellacaledonia and perhaps the more useful site regards the case for economics, is Business For Scotland, they are at the top of their game and know what they are talking about. It would be useful to have an article on here in defence of Independence. There is a YES third sector campaign, and many online sites with masses of info about the economics of Independence etc. Wings over Scotland, Bellacaledonia and perhaps the more useful site regards the case for economics, is Business For Scotland, they are at the top of their game and know what they are talking about. Anyone not sure, take a look at these sites, we will not get another chance to choose having a fairer more equal country or being plunged into even more damaging debt and austerity aimed at the poor.

16th May 2014 by jim watson

"a shared culture (from Dr Who to Harry Potter)"I would have though that a shared culture encapsulated more than Dr Who (previously a scare story that an independent Scotland would not have access to this programme or in fact the BBC) to Harry Potter (I have never read the books or watched any of the films - does that mean i have no shared culture?)Melanie Ward was previously an aspiring candidate in Inverclyde for a parliamentary seat. The emotional and finacial cost of a "break up" will be borne by Westminster alone - if Scotland votes Yes then we are ready for it in more ways than one.

16th May 2014 by JM

So far all of the arguments coming from our sector supporting independence are really arguments for a change of government or rely wholly on certain parties being in power. Independence is not an end in itself and, by itself, does not guarantee any of the claims of a 'fairer, betetr, sunnier Scotland'. the democratic deficit is local - and that is where we should be focusing.

18th May 2014 by Ian MacFarlane

More misinformed scaremongering and Party Politics from someone who has far more to loose than an Independent Scotland and it's residents....most if not all of this piece I find as Scot, insulting

3rd June 2014 by Eliot Stark

Strange that Melanie should think that the Third Sector would be Better Together seeing as she is about to run as a prospective MP! obviously no conflict here."Absolutely honoured to have been selected to be the @scottishlabour and @CoopParty Parliamentary candidate for Glenrothes and central Fife" (from twitter)Seeing the votes on the TFN poll certainly points to a different perspective from the Third Sector.

11th August 2014 by Abbe

'Melanie Ward is a Scot working for a UK international development organisation.'and also a Labour Party Candidate.... might want to mention that?!