Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon assured Scotland's third sector there will be no Scottish gagging clause
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has assured Scotland's third sector that there will be no gagging clause in Scottish Government grants to charities.
Speaking at the Gathering, Scotland's major third sector event, Sturgeon said she believed in the importance of third sector campaigning.
The First Minister also said the Scottish Government would fight UK government plans to introduce clauses to grants that will prevent charities using funding to campaign against government policy.
The rules could restrict the activities of some third sector organisations in Scotland that receive UK government funding, such as those working in international development or advocacy organisations like Citizens Advice Scotland.
Addressing delegates at the Gathering on Wednesday, 17 February, Nicola Sturgeon said: "The ability of the third sector to contribute meaningfully, openingly, sometimes critically is absolutely vital.
"That's why one of the things I want to stress, given recent developments at Westminster, is that we don't just want the third sector to help other people contribute to discussions, we want you as third sector organisations to be free to make your own views known.
"We know that you won't always agree with the Scottish Government, but actually it's often when you don't agree with us that it's most important that you get your views known. That's why we've got deep concerns about the anti-advocacy clause being proposed by the UK Government and the impact it could have on third sector organisations receiving UK government funding. I want to confirm today, and stress this very strongly, that we do not intend to insert such a clause in any Scottish Government grant."
I want to confirm today, and stress this very strongly, that we do not intend to insert such a clause in any Scottish Government grant
The First Minister also took the opportunity to stress the role of the third sector as an imporant partner in areas such as health and social care integration.
"The third sector is, always has been and will continue to be a vital social partnership for the Scottish Government. We share a common cause of creating of a fairer more equal country where people across the country have a real say in the big issues that affect their lives."
The event also included contributions from Theresa Shearer, chief executive of Enable Scotland, Michelle McCrindle, chief executive of the Food Train, Paul Reddish, chief executive of Project Scotland and SCVO convener Shulah Allan.
Speaking after the event, Jan Savage, executive director of campaigns at Enable Scotland, explained why the ability to campaign is so important to third sector organisations.
She said: “The use of unrestricted charitable funds allows us to create a platform for people who have learning disabilities to campaign for what really matters to them. We have campaigned with our members on issues like education for all and the closure of long stay institutions.
"Our #StoptheBus campaign achieved a significant change for people who have learning disabilities by resolving a policy issue that had seen people with learning disabilities lose their access to a bus pass.
“It was a real victory for people who have learning disabilities, who spoke up and campaigned on an issue that matters to them and is a perfect example of what third sector organisations like Enable Scotland can do to improve the lives of others through campaigning.”
TFN live video streamed and live blogged the whole event. Watch the video above.