Future for Scottish charities uncertain post referendum

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MSPs and the public are unsure of the impact of independence on Scottish charities, new research finds

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15th July 2014 by Paul Cardwell 2 Comments

The two largest political parties in Scotland disagree on the repercussions of independence for charities and a third of the public are still unsure what will happen after the referendum.

Despite the Scottish independence referendum being just nine weeks away Nfp Synergy’s Walking the Tightrope report shows a lack of understanding of the impact on independence on the charity sector.

The report is based on surveys of 50 MSPs conducted at the end of last year and 1,000 adults in Scotland in May 2014. Unsurprisingly, it reveals 19 out of 20 SNP MSPs polled believe independence would be positive for the third sector, with many anticipating stronger, wealthier charities with a better focus on Scottish people and their circumstances.

Make sure MSPs are considering your charity and your beneficiaries when planning for the future - Tim Harrison

However, it also shows that seven out of 15 of Labour MSPs and four out of six Conservative MSPs worry that independence would have negative consequences, including diverting resources from charities in Scotland at a time when greater demand is placed on their services.

When it comes to the public, 30% of people don’t know what impact independence would have on the third sector. Just over a quarter said the future could become less certain for charities and slightly less thought the opposite, saying in an independent Scotland charities could be better placed to meet the needs of Scottish people.

In terms of support 23% said they think there would be less government resources available for charities after a yes vote, while only 14% thought there would be more support.

Nfp Synergy’s head of professional audiences, Tim Harrison, said: “Whichever way the Scottish people vote on 18 September, Scotland will be a different country post-referendum. With the main political parties (excluding SNP) advocating new powers for Holyrood should Scotland vote no, charities need to be prepared to work with a Scottish Government that will have more power and autonomy.”

The report goes on to make key recommendations for how charities can engage with the independence debate without antagonising MSPs or the public. Using feedback from MSPs as evidence, the report makes five recommendations including staying impartial, asking tough questions of all parties and preparing a contingency plan for either result.

Harrison added: “The recommendations from this report – making sure MSPs are considering your charity and your beneficiaries when planning for the future and preparing your own contingency for a future Scotland – will guide charities in Scotland through this uncertain phase.”   

Nfp Synergy’s five recommendations
1. Ask the tough questions of politicians: question MSPs from all parties about how charities will be affected by Scottish independence and other post-referendum scenarios.
2. Stay impartial: do not take a party stance. Engage in the debate, but remain party-neutral.
3. Work together: speak to other charities or stakeholders and discuss possible implications for them and the sector as a whole.
4. Prepare a contingency plan for both independence and greater devolution.
5. Make policy recommendations. Suggest how areas of concern could be addressed.

15th July 2014 by Andrew

The Scottish charity I manage (which is entirely focused on local service delivery) raises over 40% of its funds from English Trusts & Foundations, and has done so for the past 12 years. While it is unlikely there would be any short term change in their funding programmes, I would be nervous that Scotland would become less of a priority in the future.

16th July 2014 by jj

Scots already give much more to charity than the UK average. There's little to fear from independence in terms of funding - but think of the opportunities in terms of influencing proper, meaningful policy change.No wonder indy is the preferred option of just about all of my colleagues in the third sector.