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16th March 2023

Open Letter to next FM to prioritise volunteering

Dear SNP Leadership Candidates,

In this open letter, we ask that you prioritise the vital role of volunteers across a wide range of policy areas if you are successful in your campaign to become Scotland’s next First Minister.

The important contribution of volunteers was particularly apparent during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic when 64% of Scotland’s adult population gave their time. Volunteers really are the beating heart of Scotland’s resilient communities.

The contribution of volunteers is also reflected in Scotland’s economy. In 2018 it was estimated that volunteering contributes £5.5 billion to Scotland’s economy. That represents the same economic value as the Scottish Whisky industry, but volunteering is far better for our health! It has been proven to significantly improve the health and wellbeing of participants and is a central component of the government’s plan to tackle social isolation and loneliness.

Volunteers support the delivery of a range of vital services, particularly in the promotion of health and wellbeing, thus making them a key delivery agent in ambitions for a Wellbeing Economy. Volunteer-led services often focus on preventative and community-based interventions, helping to reduce the burden on our statutory health and social care services.

The contribution of volunteers has also been vital in our response to the current cost-of-living crisis, with people up and down the country giving their time to support access to food, warm spaces and essential advice for those who need it.

Despite this vital contribution, volunteering is under threat. Many individuals who wish to volunteer are facing a range of practical and emotional barriers presented by the current cost of living crisis. The public and voluntary sector services that engage volunteers are also experiencing significant challenges, with a perfect storm of increased demand, rising costs and stagnating income.

There are also concerning signs that the current pressures on statutory and voluntary sector services are leading to more volunteers being asked to undertake roles or tasks previously done by paid staff. This undermines the sustainability of paid staff roles and reduces the quality of volunteer experiences.

Too often, the contribution of volunteers is taken for granted. Even a 5% decline in volunteering could equate to a £275 million loss to Scotland’s economy. That is why we are asking the next First Minister of Scotland to ensure that they prioritise the contribution of volunteers when they take office. We ask that:

  • the implementation of the Volunteering Action Plan, published in June last year, is prioritised by the Scottish Government with dedicated resource allocated to ensuring its success.
  • Scottish Government funded voluntary sector organisations that engage volunteers in the provision of services are afforded sustainable multi-year funding that reflects rises in inflation.
  • the Scottish Government advocates for public sector bodies that engage volunteers in the delivery of services, including the NHS, to have ring-fenced resource to manage and support volunteers sustainably.
  • the contribution of volunteers is mapped across all relevant policy areas in Government and thus reflected when resources are allocated.
  • the new First Minister and their Cabinet pledge their support of the Volunteer Charter, which sets out the principles for assuring legitimacy and preventing exploitation of workers and volunteers.

Volunteer Scotland is Scotland’s national centre for volunteering. Our mission is to create a Scotland where everyone can volunteer, more often, and throughout their lives. We believe that volunteering should be an enjoyable, rewarding and fulfilling experience for every volunteer.

For more information about the contribution of volunteering to Scotland and the opportunities for the Scottish Government to support this, please contact our Policy Officer: sarah.latto@volunteerscotland.org.uk


Alan Stevenson

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