Charities want to remain in the EU

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​Survey of third sector workers finds majority support remaining in the EU

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3rd June 2016 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

Scotland’s third sector workers will overwhelmingly vote to remain in the EU in this month’s crucial referendum.

In a poll of charity employees, carried out by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), 72% of those intending to vote said they will vote to remain with just under 18% declaring they would vote to leave.

Only, one in 10 said they hadn’t yet decided.

Despite fears of a low turnout, 96% of workers from within the sector say they intend to vote on 23 June and the same number said they feel personally engaged in the debate surrounding the referendum.

However, it seems individual enthusiasm hasn’t translated to organisations being more engaged, with only 18% saying their organisation had discussed the implications of the result of the vote and only 8% of organisations are planning to undertake any projects or activities around the referendum.

Charities want to remain in the EUMaggie Lennon

We have had EU funding for 10 years and without it we would struggle to survive

Reasons for not doing so include the referendum’s proximity to the Scottish Government elections with resources being taken up by the latter, which was deemed to be more significant. Many also said their organisation was constrained by political reputational considerations.

“Given the positive impact the EU has on human rights, employment rights and the rights of people with disabilities, it’s unsurprising that more than 70% of third sector respondents say that they will vote to stay in the EU,” John Downie, director of Public Affairs at SCVO, said.

“However, the vast majority of organisations are also reporting that they’re not actively engaged in the debate, with some saying that the campaigns have been uninspiring. This is a once in a generation vote, so we urge everyone to make sure they have their say.”

Maggie Lennon, director of the Bridges Programme, a charity which supports refugees, asylum seekers and migrants living in Glasgow, says she isn’t surprised either that the majority of the sector wants to remain in the EU.

“We have had EU funding for 10 years and without it we would struggle to survive,” she told TFN.

“As well as the European Social Fund (ESF) we get transnational funding. It’s all or nothing for us.”

The argument that money saved by the UK from not contributing to the EU would be used to make up any funding shortfalls in the sector doesn’t wash with Lennon.

She insists there has been no assurances the cash would go into the equivalent of an ESF fund and doubts that would be the case.

As well as funding, Lennon speculates that a lot of third sector organisations are keen on remaining in the EU for social justice reasons and to protect human and workers’ rights.

She warned: “If these rights are only enshrined in UK law and not international law then changing them in the future becomes much easier.

“If they are enshrined in EU law or within the European Human Rights Act a single government cannot unilaterally overturn these.”

The survey also asked for respondents to assess whether the EU’s impact on different aspects of society was positive or negative. Of the nine areas asked about each scored a higher positive evaluation than a negative one.

The EU’s impact on employment rights scored highest with 80% agreeing the EU had a positive influence there.

Although support for the EU is clearly high within the sector, some respondents of the survey, which was filled out anonymously, were critical.

One commented: “The EU has shown a lack of leadership, collaboration and ability to agree on the refugee crisis, and is now sweeping the whole thing under the carpet by creating detention camps in Turkey. It’s disgraceful.”

Another said: “The EU is an undemocratic job-destroying monstrosity and our democracy is diminished with each second we remain as a member. By voting to leave we can regain our ability to govern ourselves, make our laws, control our own borders and re-engage with the wider world.”