Brexit could be “deeply damaging” to Scotland’s third sector

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Brexit poses a huge risk to the third sector - so it's vital its voice is heard in negotiations

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26th August 2016 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Leaving the EU will put more demand on third sector services and hugely increase funding pressures, third sector leaders have told Scottish ministers.

There have been concerns that, unlike the business community, the voice of Scotland’s voluntary organisations has not been heard in discussion about the post-Brexit future.

However, senior Scottish Government figures were told that in a time of austerity the third sector plays a vital role - and that uncertainty caused by Brexit could be deeply damaging.

At a meeting called by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) and attended by some of the most significant figures in the sector, it was claimed that because of its reliance on funding cycles, Brexit poses only risk to the third sector yet demand for its services is only going to increase if the economy continues to falter – a likely scenario following the EU referendum vote.

The stakes are huge and they cut across our economy and society

Therefore, Scottish ministers were told it is vital they take the voice of Scotland’s charities on board and reflect these concerns when negotiating with the Westminster government.

A document on the impact and implications of Brexit prepared by SCVO states: "The uncertainty following the outcome of the EU referendum is deeply damaging to the third sector, with many organisations reliant on EU funding and concerned about the increased demand likely to be placed upon services in the event of a recession or falling living standards."

Specific third sector concerns which were discussed at the meeting  include impact on medical research and opportunities to study across universities in EU countries, European structural funding, and potential withdrawal from environmental commitments should Scotland leave the EU.

John Downie, SCVO director of public affairs, said: “This was an opportunity to bring together some of Scotland’s strongest charity voices to address the implications of Brexit.

“With so much uncertainty in the air, it is vitally important that the third sector’s concerns are heard by both the Scottish and UK governments.

“The stakes are huge and they cut across our economy and society. We cannot let the effects of Brexit harm the ambitions that the third sector and Scottish Government have to make our country a fairer and more equal place to live.”

Communities secretary Angela Constance and economy secretary Keith Brown assured third sector organisations that their voice will not be lost in post-EU referendum discussions.

Constance said: “The result of the EU referendum has caused deep uncertainty across the country, and that unrest is clearly being felt in the third sector, which is a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in Scotland.

“The third sector is understandably concerned about its future with many organisations reliant on EU funding, and others fearing an increased demand on services if there is another recession.

“I want to provide the third sector with the reassurance that the Scottish Government recognises its work is essential and its work is valued.

“We will do all we can to make sure its voice is heard in post-referendum discussions with the UK government, and will continue to press the UK government to provide full clarity and certainty on EU funds.”

Brown said: “As the third sector rightly recognises, the EU brings clear benefits to Scotland, and this includes access to EU funding.

“We are intent on pursuing all avenues to protect Scotland’s relationship with and place in the EU, in line with the way people here voted, to protect jobs and investment and to bring as much certainty as possible to the third sector, businesses and the country as a whole.”