Welfare, jobs, economy & health & social care to top agenda

In key speaking appointments following last week’s currency union debate, the First Minister Alex Salmond MSP and Alistair Darling MP will set out the cases for and against remaining part of the UK for charities and the people they support at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations’ Gathering on 19-20 February at the SECC, Glasgow.

Alex Salmond MSP and Alistair Darling MP will participate in separate panel debates with key representatives of Scotland’s charities and the wider third sector on 19 and 20 February respectively, before taking questions from 250 people working in charities and other third sector organisations in Scotland.

First Minister Alex Salmond, said:

“Scotland has a thriving third sector and I am delighted to speak at the 10th annual Gathering and take part in a panel debate to set out the positive case for Independence. Our charities, churches, co-operatives and mutuals, trade unions and many other civic organisations contribute hugely to our society and I am looking forward to taking part in the debate and hearing and sharing some of the great opportunities that independence can bring.

“This government is committed to supporting the development of a capable, sustainable and enterprising third sector and one that plays a crucial role in helping us create a stronger, fairer and equal Scotland. The individuals working in the third sector are often at the cold face of dealing with societies most vulnerable and therefore they have a vital role in bringing the voices of communities into the public and political arena and helping to inform and shape government policy.”

Alistair Darling MP, Leader of Better Together, said:

“I am pleased to have the chance to set out the strong positive case for Scotland remaining in the UK. The third sector is a good example of why we are better together. Our charities and organisations punch well above their weight in securing funding from bodies like the National Lottery. By pooling and sharing our resources across the whole of the UK organisations are better placed to make a real difference in communities across Scotland. It makes no sense to give that up.

“We have the best of both worlds with a strong Scottish Parliament taking key decisions about our third sector, and charities benefitting from the funding opportunities that come from being part of the larger UK. Why would we want to trade the strength and security of the UK for the risk and uncertainty of independence?”

John Downie, Director of Public Affairs, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said:

“Six months out, the referendum debate is intensifying but polls by SCVO and others show that people are finding it difficult to engage in the debate because it’s failing to cover jobs, poverty and welfare, and all the other issues that really matter to people.

“People want answers, so this will be an important opportunity for straight talking about what both sides can offer. Following last week’s heated exchanges about a currency union, it will be particularly interesting to see what both sides have to say on that.”

ENDS

1. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the national body representing the interests of charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. The Scottish third sector turns over £4.5 billion a year and employs 138,000 people in over 45,000 organisations. For more on SCVO see www.scvo.org.uk

2. The Gathering is Scotland’s largest event for charities, community groups and social enterprises in Scotland, and is free for everyone to attend. More than 3,500 people will visit over the two days.

3. Alex Salmond MSP will take part in a panel debate with key representatives of Scotland’s third sector, including Michelle McCrindle, Chief Executive of Food Train, a charity which supports older people to live at home, Chris Martin, Manager, Callander Youth Project and Rhona Cunningham, Manager of lone parent families’ charity Fife Gingerbread, from 8AM-9.15AM on Wednesday 19 February.

4. Alistair Darling MP will participate in a debate with Peter Scott, Chief Executive of ENABLE Scotland which supports people with learning disabilities, Martin Johnstone, Chief Executive of Faith in Community Scotland and Tressa Burke, Chief Executive of Glasgow Disability Alliance, from 8AM-9.15AM on Thursday 20 February.

5. John Downie, Director of Public Affairs, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, is available for interview and comment

6. For media queries, please contact Charlotte McNeill, Press Officer at SCVO, on 07790 601 995