Scottish charity sector must nurture 'reawakening of interest in democracy' despite no vote, SCVO says

The umbrella body and others respond to yesterday's historic independence referendum, in which 55 per cent of Scots voted to remain in the UK

Scottish independence referendum
Scottish independence referendum

Scotland’s charity sector is assessing how to harness the energy and civic participation witnessed in the Scottish independence referendum.

Fifty-five per cent of Scots voted against Scotland becoming an independent country in yesterday’s referendum.

Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: "Remarkably high turnout levels signal a reawakening of interest in democracy, which we must nurture and use as a catalyst to make Scotland a better, more equal place to live."

Sime said that Westminster must stand by its promise of further devolution and new powers for Scotland. "Decisions on how to use these powers to improve the economy and public services are far too important to be left to politicians or lords," he said. "People need to lead and direct these changes."

The SCVO has written a joint letter with the Scottish Trades Union Congress and the National Union of Students Scotland to Alistair Carmichael, the Secretary of State for Scotland, making the same call.

Gillian Wilson, chief executive of the umbrella body the Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland said in an online debate hosted by Third Force News, the magazine of the SCVO, that civil society had "helped ensure an active debate on the kind of Scotland we want in the future".

She said: "We need to keep this energy for positive change going and make sure individuals and civil society organisations can influence how things go forward."

In the same debate Ian Welsh, chief executive of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, said: "We need to ensure that people are not the passive recipients of service, that they are empowered to control their individual futures, that they are routinely engaged at local levels."

Third Sector Yes, a pro-independence campaign group based around the charity sector, said that the Yes campaign had "embodied the Scotland that we all wanted to build: positive, open, inclusive, ambitious, egalitarian and outward-looking, with social justice at its heart", but criticised the No campaign for not engaging on third sector issues.

The statement said: "Huge numbers of us have been inspired to question the status quo and to campaign for change; not seeking independence for its own sake, but in order to create a different and better way of doing things."

Alison Todd, chief executive of the Scottish charity Children 1st said: "What’s been clear is that it takes all of us – not just our governments and their policies – to make this country a place where we can ensure a happy, healthy, safe and secure childhood for all."

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said that, despite the no vote, the political settlement in the UK would shift rapidly.

"As greater devolution takes shape in Scotland, the demand for devolution throughout England will inevitably pick up," he said. "This is likely to affect how any number of state services are run and governed. Charities will need to be prepared to work with more and more different and new structures in order to represent the causes they work for."

Meanwhile, the Daily Record newspaper reported that a number of charities and other organisations it contacted "said they feared commenting on the referendum in any capacity". This was despite the Scottish charity leaders group Acosvo saying earlier this year that charities could and should use the vote as an opportunity for self-assessment and reviewing how they work.

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