April 10, 2017 : John Downie

Brexit stakes are high for Scotland’s third sector

What next for charities and voluntary organisations in light of constitutional upheaval?

In view of the ongoing debate surrounding Scotland’s place in Europe, SCVO is working to learn more about the third sector’s view on the European Union debate. We are particularly interested in determining which additional powers should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, from both Europe and the EU, and via any future referendum on Scottish independence.

Scotland’s charities and voluntary organisations understand the importance of the EU to the overall strength of the economy, and by consequence its impact on the vulnerable groups our sector works to support. While we expect Brexit to pose significant challenges, as outlined in our recent briefing, the coming constitutional changes present a new opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion about the kind of country we wish to become.

In our latest briefing on what Brexit is likely to mean for our sector, we take an long look at what’s at stake. We note that any further devolution of powers from Westminster should allow current and future Scottish Governments to address poverty and inequality, and strengthen communities more effectively. At the same time we recognise that, with substantial powers set to be repatriated from the EU, there is scope for debate about where these powers should rest.

further devolution would allow the Scottish Government to more adequately address poverty and inequality

In the next few years devolution will be severely tested. In accepting the fiscal framework of the 2016 Scotland Act – which many civil society organisations including SVCO warned about – the fiscal trap set by the Smith Commission has now sprung.

Power over income tax rates and bands has been devolved but significant other powers over National Insurance, wealth taxes, corporate taxes, VAT and excise duties have not. This leaves the Scottish Government with a lack of real borrowing and taxation powers that could have been applied to address the negative impact of Brexit and improve Scotland’s economic prospects. In addition, the Scottish economy is shrinking and a recession looks likely if Scotland does not remain part of the European single market.

Our briefing, which covers the aforementioned issues in detail, addresses the following themes:

Background

Introduction

The economy

People

Collaboration

The environment

Conclusion

We believe that the European Union has broadly been good for Scotland and Scotland’s third sector. It should come as no surprise then that we support measures to ensure many of the protections we currently enjoy are not jeopardised. In the event of a so called ‘hard Brexit’, SCVO supports a differentiated deal for Scotland within Europe. We look forward to exploring the options available to secure the links our sector views as most crucial.

Important: Opinions expressed by bloggers are their own and don't represent those of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

by John Downie