Third Sector Manifesto

In these interesting times, trying to develop ideas for a fixed purpose might feel a little like trying to hit a dartboard hitched to the back of a rollercoaster.  The next Scottish Parliamentary elections will take place in May 2021 – that much we know.  Whether Brexit will have happened by then, or a second referendum on either Scottish independence or EU membership, or even another UK general election, remains to be seen.

For the third sector, getting our voice heard over the tumult will be a challenge.  That is why it is so welcome that SCVO has commenced work on the development of a manifesto that will express our collective priorities for the next Scottish Parliamentary elections.

SCVO Policy Forum

The development of the manifesto will take place through the SCVO’s Policy Forum. This group has been convened as a successor to the former Policy Committee, with 15 members who have been appointed on a personal basis, rather than as representatives of our employers. The group is chaired by David McColgan, with Janis McCulloch as Vice Chair, with support from SCVO colleagues.

Contributing to the third sector manifesto for the 2021 election will be the Forum’s principal focus in 2019.  As part of this, the group will be participating in a series of evidence sessions, listening to expert insights on specific policy areas that will ultimately be considered for inclusion in the manifesto.

Gathering evidence

We hope to hold around 4 evidence sessions over the course of the year.  These will allow the group to better gauge the biggest challenges facing both society as a whole and the third sector in general.  The aim is to express this not only in terms of what parliamentarians need to do for the benefit of the people of Scotland, but also to think about what they need to do to unlock to full potential of our sector as a key instigator of positive change in the country.

This is about looking beyond some of the more long-standing challenges directly facing the sector, such as funding.  In the current economic climate, reflecting those practical issues will – naturally – remain important.  In addition to this, however, we may want to make the case for clearer commitments from political parties to investing in the sector and how they can support us in meaningfully contributing to the achievement of shared objectives.

Early insights

The Policy Forum’s first evidence session took place in April, when Francis Stuart of the STUC, Emma Ritch of Engender and Chaloner Chute of the Digital Health and Care Institute, contributed their thoughts on the future of society, economy and the workforce in Scotland. The meeting, as with all Forum sessions where it is practical to do so, was live streamed on YouTube.

Some of the early subjects coming out as a key priority have been aspects linked to automation, the continuing transition to digital ‘solutions’ and how each of these could affect workforce and skills, as well as social impacts and implications for equalities where these changes might have (and are already having) a particularly profound impact on certain groups.

Your sector needs you!

To help identify areas for further exploration, SCVO has created a short survey so you can tell us what you see as the challenges and opportunities facing the third sector in Scotland. Your comments will support the insights towards the manifesto and help shape what we hope will be a powerful statement of the incredible potential the third sector has to make towards the delivery of key services and in bringing about meaningful change.

I would urge you to take part and join in the conversation – if the next decade is anything like the current one, it is essential that political parties fully embrace the third sector. We want the passion and professionalism of our workforce and its connections with the individuals and communities that use its services to be at the heart of the next Government’s ambitions as they set out their stall to serve the people of Scotland.