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19th April 2023

Reading between the lines: our response to the new First Minister’s vision

Volunteering is not explicitly mentioned in the First Minister’s vision for Scotland. However, it is clear that volunteering continues to have a central role in achieving many government priorities.

When reading between the lines of the paper accompanying Mr Yousaf’s statement to parliament yesterday, two things stood out:

1. The First Minister’s ‘fresh start’ refers more to fresh faces and fresh perspectives than fresh priorities, and we don’t see this as a bad thing! We welcome the rhetoric of a ‘fresh start’ because fresh perspectives and new thinking is required to achieve these priorities – particularly in the current economic climate.    

2. Volunteering continues to have an important role in achieving many of these policy priorities. You just need to look at the First Minister’s three Missions up to 2026 – equality, opportunity and community – to see that the contribution of volunteers will be key.

Let’s look first at the mission of equality. The fight for social justice has volunteers and the voluntary sector at its core, with thousands of people giving their time to promote equality every day across Scotland. Key policy priorities identified by the new FM around equality are tackling child poverty and continuing support for those displaced by the conflict in Ukraine. Two weeks ago we detailed the important role of volunteering in tackling child poverty through parental employment in a consultation response, and the vital contribution of volunteers in supporting Ukrainian refugees is widely acknowledged.

In the mission of opportunity, the Scottish Government continues its commitment to Community Wealth Building, the Just Transition to Net Zero and promoting Fair Work principles in Scotland’s workplaces. Feedback we received at a consultation event last week highlighted just how important volunteers are to Community Wealth Building ambitions. Similarly, efforts to make our communities more environmentally sustainable are largely driven by the efforts of volunteers, from participating in litter picks to acting as trustees for community owned greenspaces. Finally, the Volunteer Charter is an important consideration in ensuring volunteers and paid workers are treated fairly, particularly in the public and voluntary sectors.

For the third mission related to community, it almost goes without saying that volunteers have a central role. Indeed, the new First Minister himself stated in a recent letter to Volunteer Scotland that ‘volunteers truly are the beating heart in Scotland’s communities’. Volunteers have such an important contribution to the delivery of public services, particularly in community-based roles which focus on prevention and early intervention.

With this in mind, we welcome the re-commitment to Fairer Funding of the third sector in the First Minister’s vision. Calls for Fairer Funding and the need to address capacity challenges around volunteer management were detailed in our ‘Testing our Resilience’ report last September and we are keen to see these progressed. 

So, reading between the lines, we have a lot of work to do between now and 2026.  The new Scottish Government’s policy priorities are more likely to succeed in practice if volunteering is reflected. We look forward to working with the new First Minster, and his team, in ensuring that happens. 

Sarah Latto

Policy Officer