Leaving the European Union would create a major funding hole for Scotland's third sector
Scotland’s third sector would lose at least £20 million a year of funding if the UK decides to leave the European Union (EU).
The cash, which is used to support the most vulnerable members of society find work, is delivered through European Structural and Investments Funds (ESIF).
However, it is only a proportion of all the European funding that Scotland’s third sector receives, with millions more coming directly from European departments and programmes, such as The Northern Periphery Programme, which aims to help remote communities on the northern regions of Europe to develop their economic, social and environmental potential.
ESIF investment of £1.2m helped us reach hundreds of individuals struggling to overcome chaotic life situations like offending, drugs/alcohol, homelessness or a history in the care system
As Prime Minister David Cameron announced the UK will hold a referendum of the whether or not to leave the EU on 23 June, third sector organisations told TFN what being part of Europe means to them.
Scotland’s ESIF funds, which had already fallen from £44m a year from 2000 to 2006 to £19m from 2007 to 2014, help the sector to deliver employment programmes for the most disadvantaged and hardest to reach people.
Organisations such as Enable, Intowork, Action for Children, the Princes Trust and the Scottish Association for Mental Health have all been recipients of ESIF funding.
Venture Trust, which works with young people looking to turn their lives around through outdoor and wilderness activities, received £1.2m over two years between 2010 and 2012.
The charity's chief executive Amelia Morgan told TFN: “ESIF investment of £1.2m helped us reach hundreds of individuals struggling to overcome chaotic life situations like offending, drugs/alcohol, homelessness or a history in the care system.
“Using our world-leading wilderness-based personal development approaches, we enabled 596 individuals to build the confidence, motivation and lifeskills they needed to move forward positively into jobs or training.”
Between 2012 and 2014, Enable Scotland received over £600,000 ESF to support the growth of its Stepping Up project into schools across Dundee, North Lanarkshire and Fife.
Jamie Rutherford, head of employability at Enable Scotland, said: “That allowed us to share the best practice developed in our national transitions services and support hundreds more young people who have learning disabilities to make positive transitions from school.”
A number of third sector organisations, particularly in rural areas, also receive European funding for work tackling social exclusion and combatting poverty.
Alison Cairns, head of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations European Unit, said Scotland’s voluntary sector could benefit from working even more closely with European partners.
“The European Union is much, much more than a peace project or a free trade area for civil society,” she said. “There is a fundamental desire for, and are benefits from, close co-operation between European civil society. Our broad interest in social issues, containing market forces and promoting strong welfare policies and social issues makes us politically and ideologically compatible.
“There are significant opportunities at the EU level for the third sector in Scotland, such as collaboration and cooperation on EU wide strategies through EU networks, civil dialogue with EU institutions and transnational funding opportunities.”
At a recent event at the Gathering, Scotland’s third sector conference, a range of people representing third sector organisations heard that campaigning issues, such as climate change and human rights issues, would be better supported within Europe rather than outside of the EU.
David Brew, of the party politically neutral European Movement Scotland, said the third sector would be worse off both financially and politically out of Europe.
"Voluntary organisations’ goals are much more likely to be achieved in a united Europe that stands for partnership and social justice, and protects individual rights,” said Brew. “Those UK politicians that are championing Brexit hardly inspire confidence that shifting power from Brussels to London would be good for our communities.”