Martin Sime: Scottish tabloid adds to the welter of fake charity news

Plus: the misplaced arrogance of Tory prime ministers; confusion over the 'shared society'; and the story behind the Scottish tax headlines

Martin Sime
Martin Sime

I write shortly after the Scottish Daily Mail mounted a craven attack on charities. Over three days, this so-called newspaper published a series of mindless stories that I can only describe as "fake news". Of course, the sector in England has had it worse - a real conspiracy of hostile press, government ministers and the chair of the charity regulator - so things in Scotland could be much, much worse.

Every night the Scottish parliament comes to life with receptions and launches sponsored by MSPs. Some 250 people attended the SCVO's recent annual reception, and they had much to discuss. For instance, what is it about Tory prime ministers and society? It strikes me there is a misplaced arrogance here, as if they feel they can mould us into a shape that fits their purposes. And they give the game away too quickly by talking about obligations. Governments are far from omnipotent when it comes to how people live their lives; they are more likely to influence communities with some humble nurturing of the many good things citizens get up to.

The messages from Theresa May's "shared society" launch were hopelessly confusing to us Scots. Were we included? As usual, the BBC forgot its mission to explain such inconsistencies. I promise this represents my annual rant about the casual amnesia of the Establishment.

Act As if You Own the Place is an Electoral Reform Society-led campaign to breathe life into the democracy debate. With Scotland having the largest local government units in western Europe, there is a growing consensus that a more local tier, particularly based around towns, might help to reinvigorate this aspect of public life. What's refreshing is that local meetings and other aspects of the campaign are being led by activists, not politicians. Councils, on the other hand, will struggle to get 50 per cent of the electorate out to vote in May.

"Scotland now the highest-taxed part of the UK", screamed the headline Tory response to the Scottish government decision not to follow UK government plans to raise the 40 per cent tax threshold above inflation. Alas, the sums involved amount to no more than a small Pret sandwich once a week, which rather pales into insignificance alongside the extra £2bn that is being sucked out of welfare over the life of this parliament.

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

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