General election: Speak out now to beat hatred and division

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Scotland’s third sector must be at the forefront of ensuring progressive ideas win over hatred and division in snap General Election campaign

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18th April 2017 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Scotland’s charities must be at the forefront of ensuring progressive ideas and policies win out over hatred and division in the forthcoming general election campaign.

Prime Minister Theresa May made the shock announcement that she will seek a snap poll on 8 June as she bids to bolster support for the Brexit process.

Scotland’s charities should now seize the chance to make their voices heard and map out a different vision of society which transcends the misery and inequality which has been a feature of Tory-driven, Westminster approved austerity.

That’s the view of Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).

He said: “SCVO urges the Scottish voluntary sector to makes its voice heard loudly in this snap election.

“This an extraordinary opportunity for third sector organisations to get their messages across – we can have no truck with closed borders, obscene inequality and ludicrous ambitions to re-enact a Victorian version of our country. 

“Our visions for Scotland are grounded in the empowerment of people, in cultural and ethnic diversity, in equal rights and in working in partnership with our friends and neighbours, at home and abroad.  

“This is a time for our sector to stand up for its values.”

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, added: “With four million children across the UK growing up in poverty  - over a quarter of a million of them in Scotland – it is vital that this snap general election campaign is used by all parties to focus on the policies that are driving so many families into hardship.  

"If another generation of our children are not to be condemned to the damaged life chances, poorer health and educational under-achievement that poverty creates then new policies like the two child limit on universal credit and tax credits – which is alone set to push another 200 000 children into poverty – need to be reviewed and rejected by any prospective UK government.”

John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, raised concerns about the effect the Westminster government’s Lobbying Act may have on charities’ ability to campaign.

The act came into force in 2014 and it brought in changes to how non-political organisations can conduct campaigning work in the run up to a general election.

Before the last general election, in 2015, SCVO urged charities to defy rules which could muzzle them.

Low said: “Since last year’s EU referendum, people across the country are becoming increasingly active in political and social issues. There is a growing appetite to make a difference and many see charities as a way to achieve that.

“As we head into a general election, there is a real danger that the Lobbying Act may deter charities from fulfilling this fundamental role which is central to our democracy.

“While not engaging with party politics, it is both legitimate and vital for charities to influence government and opposition policies on behalf of their beneficiaries. We should support and protect their proud and historic role in our national debate.

“We urge the government to make it crystal clear that charities can contribute their insight and expertise, which is so important at this crucial time in our country’s history.”

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