Politicking at the expense of young people
Jeremy Purvis MSP
The UK Government is currently considering a Bill to allow money from dormant bank accounts to be used to support good causes. Since June, Liberal Democrats have called for this £40m windfall to be distributed to services and facilities for young people in Scotland as it will be in England.
On Thursday, the Scottish Government took the unprecedented step of withdrawing, 15 minutes before it was due to be debated, its own motion on dormant bank accounts. It had become clear that my amendment to ensure the money was spent on young people had attracted majority support. Quite incredibly, the SNP withdrew its motion, preventing even a debate taking place. This was not only a clear contempt of parliament but also a signal that the SNP government considers investing in young people in Scotland to be less of a priority than does the UK government.
Never before under devolution has a government withdrawn its own motion from debate purely to avoid defeat.
I am certain that many organisations working with young people will be bitterly disappointed by the government’s outrageous politicking at the expense of young people.
Just think of the great work that could be supported across Scotland with this investment.
The SNP has been forced to bring back a motion to parliament next week. I will continue to press strongly for a clear and unambiguous commitment to invest these resources in the future of Scotland – our young people. It is to be hoped that the government will see sense and accept this approach and doesn’t take the opportunity to shore up its finances by siphoning the money off elsewhere.
Next week’s vote in parliament could be a crucial one for young people across Scotland. I hope never again will the SNP display such contempt for parliament and the young people of Scotland.
Not just youth projects that deserve funds
Your report and Jeremy Purvis MSP’s letter (January 19) about the withdrawal of the motion in the Scottish Parliament and hence the delay in a decision on the use of the unclaimed assets from dormant bank accounts have misjudged the mood of the voluntary and social enterprise sectors in Scotland on the potential use of these funds.
The funds should be used to bring added value to Scotland’s disadvantaged communities. Youth services are only one of a number of areas that require support. There are many other valuable and under-resourced services equally worthy of consideration for additional resources.
The Wise Group was, along with others, involved in consultations with the Commission on Unclaimed Assets at the end of 2006. The main conclusion was that the creation of a social investment fund for the voluntary and social enterprise sectors would allow the flexibility to support projects that met local needs and priorities.
The Scottish Government has taken a consultative approach with the voluntary and social enterprise sectors. We are developing a new action plan for the sector that could direct these additional funds to where they would be needed and have most impact. Although the decision has been made in England to distribute money to youth services, there have been complaints this has not involved consultation. The Treasury Select Committee has stated it regrets ‘the government’s decision to make its choices on funding priorities without meaningful prior consultation’.
Mr Purvis’s suggestion that we should follow the UK Government’s decision to allocate the share of the Unclaimed Assets Fund to youth services should not be supported. It is not based on dialogue and seems to be designed to embarrass the SNP administration rather than considering the needs of the voluntary and social enterprise sectors.
All’s fair in a funding crisis?
When it comes to money the daggers come out. The voluntary sector -the not for profit sector -is defined by not being about money, yet its dependence on the goodwill of others to provide it with cash means that more it spends as much if not more of its time worrying about how to make money. That’s why the wrangle over the dormant bank account cash in the Scottish Parliament this week is so unfortunate.
For years the issue of dormant cash has been floating around. The UK is not the first country to take money that has been lying unclaimed in bank accounts and give it to good causes. When this scheme was first spoken about in the UK, fantastical sums like £5bn were being banded around, then it was £lbn and these days predictions are more like £500m. In Scotland we can expect to get around £50m in the first year, and because all the accounts that have been around for 30, 40, 50 years will be emptied at the beginning, after that the annual income will be considerably less.
In the grand scheme of things £50m is a bit disappointing after years of speculating about the great windfall. The Scottish voluntary sector has an annual income of £3.8bn after all.
But, for a sector that services all of Scotland’s communities and is forced to scramble for what snippets it can get, this is still a significant amount of money.
The government may argue that dormant bank account cash is not being used to fund the Olympics, but it is convenient for everyone that it is becoming available at the same time as good causes are losing £50m of national lottery funding. It is also likely to be distributed by the Big Lottery Fund Scotland – so the implications are obvious.
It’s understandable that one particular cause may desire to get its hands on this cash. Every single cause believes that its needs and its service users are the most important. And it’s not unheard of for charities to lay into each other over funding –remember Enable’s impactful advertising campaign question why people give to animal charities over disabled children. But when every new piece of cash of the voluntary sector results in a mad scrum- mage of money-grabbing savages, then the integrity of the whole sector will suffers.
The vote on dormant bank accounts was cancelled last week because MSPs were confused by different messages coming out of the third sector. If the third sector wants to be considered on the same level as the public and private sectors, it needs to demonstrate that it can work together for the common good. Fairness is a basic principle in life, and if the voluntary sector loses sight of that where will society be?