Martin Sime: Worthy accolade and bizarre lunch with the Cabinet Office

Plus: patricians in the Lords; Cabinet Office officials miss the point; and political espionage alive and well

Martin Sime
Martin Sime

It's great to see one of my peers, Louise Macdonald, winning the UK Third Sector Director of the Year Award from the Institute of Directors. Young Scot is an innovative and high-profile charity that has got real traction with young people. It stands out because it is authentic and smart.

I had an enjoyable, if somewhat bizarre, lunch with the top team from the Cabinet Office on their tour of the provinces, but it was spoiled somewhat by the admission that their role was to "keep the UK together". This political comment was rather out of place with the otherwise secular and respectful tone. Oh, and they still don't understand devolution.

The House of Lords Select Committee on Charities is a rather odd affair. It seems to have embarked on an expedition through all the issues and challenges facing our sector, but to what purpose? Giving evidence to it recently, I was struck by the patrician tone. The great and good pontificating about the future of our sector has always left me feeling somewhat uneasy.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh struggles to get young people involved. Its recent debate about what works for vulnerable young people could have done with some stories from the street instead of learned literature reviews (it was blind control research only, so they didn't find much). A lot of powerful people were present, but this surely isn't how to do social policy.

Political espionage is alive and well! Despite making himself unpopular with the Scottish government over a long drawn-out legal battle to delay minimum alcohol pricing, David Frost, the chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, was appointed to the recently established Advisory Council to our First Minister on how to deal with Brexit. Barely four months in he resigned from both positions to take up a new role - as a Brexit adviser to the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.

At an SCVO dinner to open a discussion with some of our larger members about the accelerating crisis in social care, I am reminded of an anecdote from the world of faith, where attempts to merge two churches or congregations usually end up with there being three organisations.

Martin Sime is chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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