Scottish Parliament rejects Derek Brownlee proposal

MSPs vote against giving legal teeth to statement about how local authorities should treat charities

MSPs have rejected a proposal to enshrine in law an agreement on how the voluntary sector should be treated by Scottish local authorities.

Conservative MSP Derek Brownlee introduced an amendment into the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill that would have required local authorities to have regard in their decision making to a joint statement agreed last year between the SCVO, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers in Scotland and the Scottish Government

The joint statement asks for the third sector to be represented in Community Planning Partnerships, for an end to the clawback of surpluses and for a commitment to grants and three-year funding, among other things.

A spokeswoman for the SCVO said four CPPs, including Glasgow and Highland, still did not have third sector representation and a third of councils still clawed back surpluses.

Brownlee told the Scottish Parliament last week that the disparity in power between the sector and government meant there was a danger the sector would be squeezed disproportionately during coming cuts in public spending "when the appropriate response would be to grow the sector and allow diversity in service provision".

John Swinney, the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, acknowledged that there were problems with enforcing the joint statement but said the Scottish Government was "open to dialogue".

The amendment was supported by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats but was opposed by the SNP and was defeated by 47 votes to 32. Labour MSPs abstained.

Lucy McTernan, deputy chief executive of the SCVO, said she was disappointed by the result but encouraged by cross-party support for the sector during the debate.

"What's needed now is a commitment from the Scottish Government that they will intervene anywhere where the voluntary sector is being disadvantaged at a local level," she said.

 

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