Politicians praise role of voluntary sector

20 years 1

SCVO staff with Margaret Mitchell MSP and OSCR's Jude Turbyne

Legislation achieved by the sector working with Holyrood has been celebrated at an event at the Scottish Parliament 

1st November 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Politicians have marked the contribution of the voluntary sector in creating key legislation for Scotland over the past 20 years.

A debate entitled Charities, Scotland and Holyrood was held at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday (30 October), to highlight how the sector has worked in partnership with politicians since devolution.

The debate was held on the back of the publication of a book under the same title by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) earlier this year. Twenty key third sector campaigns that resulted in legislation being delivered by the Scottish Parliament were highlighted in the book.

Earlier in the day, a drop-in session was held where politicians could collect a copy of the book and discuss the campaigns featured. 

The debate was led by Margaret Mitchell MSP, who started by praising the work of the voluntary sector over the past two decades and highlighting the role of campaign groups in helping to create human trafficking legislation in Scotland.

She said: “Sadly, trafficking remains a very much alive and extremely vexing issue, both inter and intra state. Despite that, there is no doubt that the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 consolidated and strengthened the existing criminal law against human trafficking, as well as the offence relating to slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. It is only right to acknowledge and thank the voluntary organisations who supplied the evidence, lobbied for legislation, and played such an important role in improving the legislation during the scrutiny process.”

Kenneth Gibson MSP highlighted the smoking ban as another area of legislation that the sector played a vital role in.

He said: “Of course, Scotland’s voluntary sector is an integral part of not just our society but our economy. The sector has an annual income of more than £5.8 billion and 107,000 paid staff, and is comprised of more than 45,000 organisations. In my area of North Ayrshire alone, there are 335 third sector charities employing 701 people, and 27% of adults volunteer in some capacity, from Garnock Valley Men’s Shed and North Ayrshire Foodbank, to Boyd Orr neighbourhood watch, to name just three.

“The 20 key campaigns highlighted in the book touch on a number of issues, and it is clear that third sector engagement has resulted in not just some but much legislation being created for the benefit of the people of Scotland. Indeed, the third sector is a key consultee in virtually all legislation brought forward in this Parliament. SCVO is often at the very heart of that.”

Gordon Lindhurst MSP highlighted the important role of volunteers, whilst Elaine Smith MSP called for politicians to note the funding challenges charities face.

She said: “The organisations have provided a wonderful example of how partnerships and collective strength can help to identify the changes that need to be made. Additionally, the third sector often gives a voice to people who do not want or feel unable to engage with public bodies or the Scottish Parliament.”

The debate was closed by Aileen Campbell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, who said now is a time to celebrate the work done by the sector, but also to ensure its key position remains over the next 20 years.

She said: “There is no escaping the fact that we live in uncertain times. None of us really knows what challenges will unfold over the next 20 years, but I know that the Government and Parliament will continue to view the third sector as a key strategic partner, and we will continue to value the role that third sector organisations play in helping us to tackle poverty, reduce inequality and create a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.”