Scottish Labour makes funding pledge to charity sector

19 Feb 2024 News

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The Scottish Labour Party has pledged to forge a “new deal for the third sector” if it is elected to lead the government in Holyrood.

Speaking at last weekend’s party conference in Glasgow, Scottish Labour MSP Paul O’Kane said his party would give “fair and multi-year funding” to charities so they can “help grow our economy and communities”.

Shadow social justice secretary O’Kane said the Scottish Labour party was committed to rebuilding the relationship between the country’s government and charities. 

He also announced a “new deal for working people” to end fire and rehire practices if his party wins a majority in the Scottish parliamentary elections in May 2026.

In response, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) said it was “heartening” to hear Scottish Labour’s focus on funding for the sector, but added that “without turning words into actions, no principles or commitments will make a difference”.

‘We commit to bringing forward a new deal for the third sector’

O’Kane told the conference’s attendees that charities “are having to do more with less to support people in their hour of need”.

“The SNP have promised to overhaul the funding model for the third sector for nearly a decade. Promises they were making when I was starting out in the voluntary sector, and that wasn’t yesterday. But it never materialised.

“So today, we commit to bringing forward a new deal for the third sector. Scottish Labour are ready to rebuild the relationship between the Scottish government and our third-sector organisations. That means ensuring they have security of funding and flexibility with our time and resources.

“Our multi-year funding model allows organisations to demonstrate stability and the long-term potential of their services, which will attract additional investment from non-governmental partners. We will agree funding principles that work for both government and the sector to ensure it’s laser-focused on reducing poverty and growing the economy.”

Fair funding for the voluntary sector

Kirsten Hogg, SCVO’s head of policy and research, said: “Labour’s new deal for third sector funding must include all of the aspects of the fair funding principles that the sector has defined as important [...] which enables organisations to provide security, plan effectively and fulfil good governance requirements.

“Sustainable funding that includes inflation-based uplifts and full costs, including core operating costs; and funding that accommodates paying staff at least the real living wage and pay uplifts for voluntary sector staff.

“It’s particularly heartening to hear Scottish Labour’s focus on delivering on these commitments for the sector.  

“We have heard warm words of support and broken promises for long enough, and we must hope that this Labour commitment will be delivered on the ground, as without turning words into actions, no principles or commitments will make a difference to the sustainability of our essential sector.”

In a blog published last year, SCVO set out the principles of “fair funding”, which it described as “central to a sustainable voluntary sector in Scotland”.

These included “longer-term funding of three years or more, flexible unrestricted funding, timely payments, more accessible application processes, sustainable funding which incorporates inflation-based uplifts, and transparent approaches to monitoring and reporting”. 

Last month, SCVO urged the current SNP-led Scottish government to introduce uplifts to public sector grants and contracts, which now require all recipients to pay staff aged 16 and over the real living wage. 

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