Scottish DEC 'could harm charities' independence'

The First Minister's plans to create a Scottish Executive international fundraising agency could jeopardise the independence of charities, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations has warned.

Jack McConnell was at the Scottish Parliament today to launch an agency similar to the Disasters Emergency Committee, which would channel donations from Scotland to Malawi, a country identified by the Parliament last month as a priority for aid.

The body is expected to help Scottish overseas charities advertise their work in the country and boost aid.

But SCVO spokesman Leon Thompson said working under a single public agency that would centralise donations could threaten charities' independence.

He added that this would lead to competition with local fundraisers and confuse people as to whether they were donating to a charity or the Government.

This in turn could threaten charities' fundraising efforts. "A full-on promotional campaign asking people to give through this new fund might cut across charity giving," said Thompson.

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said that the fundraising agency championed by McConnell would "enable people's donations to be targeted in the most useful way".

"The First Minister made it clear that he would like to have a national framework to support Malawi in its development," she said.

McConnell was on a five-day trip to Malawi last week to discuss his initiative with the country's president, Bingu wa Mutharika, as part of a drive to strengthen bonds between the two countries. He visited schools and universities and pledged £120,000 to help train staff to improve healthcare.

- See News, page 3.

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