The First Minister of Scotland has indicated that his government will provide longer-term grants for third sector organisations.
Addressing delegates at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations’ The Gathering conference yesterday (8 November), Humza Yousaf gave “firm assurance” that the government was considering ways to provide increased stability to charitable organisations through multi-year funding.
He said this “absolutely will include” a greater number of at least two-year grants where feasible, with further details expected to be laid out in the Scottish government’s next Budget, expected next month.
Yousaf said he and the social justice secretary had “instructed officials around the current funding process”, adding: “Once we’ve completed that Budget work, later next month, we’ll be able to advise to what extent we can bring forward multi-year funding.”
He said: “We’re making steps absolutely in the right direction, but I acknowledge that there’s a lot more to do. We have to go further, and a part of that is of course listening to you about what more can be done.”
Yousaf cited The Yard, an Edinburgh-based charity for disabled children, as an example of a multi-year funding model in practice.
In October, the government promised £2m to the charity over a three-year span, which The Yard told Yousaf would provide increased stability.
He said: “The point that the team at The Yard continued to make to me was that it’s the stability – we need to know, we can’t just live those one-year funding cycles, hand-to-mouth, chasing our tail, thinking what we have to do next, how do we fit into project funding – as opposed to just getting on with what they do best: transforming and saving lives.”
Concluding his speech, Yousaf said: “I hope when you see the Budget later this year, that it will give you an assurance and a confidence of, not just the warm words, not just the rhetoric – but the fact that we’re prepared to put our money where our mouth is.”
Anna Fowlie, the chief executive of the SCVO, said that a minimum of two-year funding for voluntary organisations would be a “welcome first step” in the government’s commitment to improving third sector funding by 2026 – which was laid out in Yousaf’s Programme for Government for 2023/24.
But she added: “To truly ensure that funding for our sector is sustainable, however, this will have to be accompanied by other improvements, and over time will have to go further.
“The First Minister’s words showed an understanding of the essential role played by Scotland’s voluntary sector at home and abroad, and most promisingly suggested that he understands that for the sector to play its key role, it needs to be sustainable.
“As ever, the proof will be in the pudding, and we will monitor the Scottish government’s actions to see whether they live up to this commitment.”
Fowlie added that the SCVO would continue to push the First Minister and the government to adopt fair funding principles developed by the charity alongside other voluntary organisations, which includes multi-year funding commitments for longer than two years, a commitment to uplifts in line with inflation, timely decision-making and greater access to core funding.