Angela Constance backs Scotland's third sector in the wake of spurious tabloid attack
An attack by a London-based tabloid on Scotland’s third sector has been branded “offensive and disrespectful” by a Scottish Government minister.
Angela Constance, the cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities, was responding to SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands Maree Todd’s question tabled in in parliament.
Todd asked the minister to condemn a tranche of stories run last month by the Daily Mail depicting the sector as siding with “SNP paymasters”.
The articles, which were full of inaccuracies and half-truths, implied influential organisations in the third sector were mere “sock puppets in the SNP government’s pocket” for being in receipt of tax payers’ cash.
However Constance said she regarded voluntary organisations as “pillars of the community” which were placed “at the forefront of community-led action to tackle poverty and inequality.”
And she condemned Annie Wells, the Tory equalities’ spokesperson, for giving credence to the stories by supplying a comment piece to the paper headlined “We must tackle this scandal or charity giving will fade away.”
She said: “I personally found some of the stories that appeared in the press offensive and disrespectful to the thousands of staff and volunteers who work very hard for charitable causes up and down the country.
“Of course, the press and journalists are absolutely free to say and do as they wish; I would not want to interfere with that in any way. However, I was somewhat disappointed that a Tory member aided and abetted what I perceive to be a slur on an entire sector.
“They are a pillar of our democratic and transparent society. They are not afraid to speak truth to power, whoever is in power, and they are at the forefront of community-led action to tackle poverty and inequality.”
They are not afraid to speak truth to power, whoever is in power - Angela Constance
John Downie, director of public affairs at SCVO, wrote to Wells to complain about the opinion piece.
He said the article gave credence to the newspaper's "fake news" claims that many of Scotland’s third sector organisations are sock puppets for the Scottish Government.
In his letter, Downie pointed out that “Scotland benefits from an engaged and diverse policy development culture, with charities routinely injecting evidence, narratives and life into the work of the Scottish Parliament.
“Indeed, as a member of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee, you have personally benefited from the wisdom of many fine Scottish third sector organisations – including RNIB Scotland, LGBT Youth Scotland, Enable Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland.
“Without the input and ideas of such organisations, the policy making process, committee reports, legislation and even party manifestos would be far less robust and dynamic.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “In her piece, Annie reserved criticism for corrupt charities, or organisations that spent far too much on wages for senior staff.
“If Angela Constance disagrees with that, I’m sure fundraisers across Scotland would be very interested to hear why.”