Martin Sime: Sir Humphrey is alive and well and living in Scotland

The chief executive of SCVO gives his views from north of the border

Sir Humphrey is alive and kicking: "Ministers intend to take forward our commitment to bring forward a new strategy on diet and obesity to reinforce coordinated action on the promotion of unhealthy foods". Eh? Note the subtle use of the prevailing mantra of building on success, which almost always means covering up for failure.

Exhibit number two is a piece from our recently retired permanent secretary, Sir Peter Housden, extolling the merits of a more enabling and less gladiatorial approach to the delivery of public services. These sentiments are much easier to say once there is no prospect of being held accountable for a decade of failure to deliver anything of the sort.

It might be easier to redesign VAT so charities no longer have to endure the worst of all worlds: an uneven playing field with our public and private sector competitors and falling victim to some of the worst charlatans and cowboys in the shape of ex-HM Revenue & Customs VAT consultants?

The SCVO runs a programme to give youngsters six months' paid work with voluntary organisations. I went to a jobs fair where 50 jobseekers were interviewed by third sector employers. One young man, recently released from prison, explained to his peers how having a job had changed his life. Some days make the whole thing worthwhile.

Forced to resign, the chair of Citizens Advice Scotland, Dominic Notarangelo, argued his corner in The Herald. Defending eight-hour-long, combustible trustee meetings, he claimed this was how people in Glasgow did things, which sits uneasily with his headline denial that he led a "Glasgow mafia" controlling the board. All this from a man who allegedly called himself Il Padrino.

The latest Scottish Index on Multiple Deprivation mostly confirms what we already know: poverty and inequality go hand in hand and are accelerating in some places. Political responses have been narrow - local, national and UK governments either blame each other or demand more money be spent. There is no evidence that more teachers, nurses or social workers can turn this round. On the other hand, old-fashioned, bottom-up community development seems to make a difference. This is where an enabling state ought to come in.

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

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