In 1939, immediately prior to the outbreak of World War II, a Scottish Advisory Committee was formed in Edinburgh by the National Council of Social Service (now the National Council for Voluntary Organisations), and given a remit to draft the constitution for proposed Scottish Council of Social Service. The objects of the new organisation were to be those that have lasted until today.
To promote any or all of the purposes for the benefit of the Community which now or hereinafter may be deemed by law to be charitable, and in particular the advancement of education, the furtherance of health and the relief of poverty, distress and sickness.
To promote and organise co-operation in the achievement of the above purposes, and to that end to bring together in Council nationally and locally representatives of voluntary agencies and statutory authorities engaged in the furtherance of the above purposes or any of them.
Inevitably, hostilities delayed the work of the Advisory Committee but on 1 October 1943 the Scottish Council of Social Service was formally separated from NCSS and established in its own right. It had 75 members representing a wide cross section of voluntary sector activity and, by the end of its first financial year, had assets of £642 and a bank overdraft of £42. The Council was reconstituted as a Company Limited by Guarantee in September 1946.
The work of SCSS was conducted mainly through a series of committees, many of which are well known today as independent organisations: for example, Age Concern Scotland and Citizens Advice Scotland both began life within SCSS as the Scottish Old People’s Welfare Committee and the Scottish Citizens’ Advice Bureaux Advisory Committee. Other activities included recruitment and training of volunteers for emergency relief, the administration of grants and loans for village halls, a Music Committee to encourage amateur music, and a training and loan scheme for rural blacksmiths.
At that time much of the Council’s interests were dictated by wartime need and its immediate aftermath. By 1946 a Committee on the Welfare of the Disabled, now the independent Disability Scotland, had been formed and for the next decade the work of this and the other committees expanded but remained largely unchanged. Co-operation continued with the long established Councils of Social Service in the four Scottish cities and with others in Greenock and Skye. By 1965 a total of thirteen CSS had been established; the first CSS conference was held which concluded with a promise by SCSS to continue to support the local Councils and attend their meetings.
The SCSS twenty-fifth annual report records the appointment of a sub-committee ‘To seriously consider the need for a Charities Register on the lines of that which exists in England’, and two years later ‘… new office premises at 19 Claremont Crescent, Edinburgh … have been favourably commented on by all members… ‘. E=MC2; time travel is possible!
By the mid-seventies, following changes to its governance, SCSS established a standing committee called Community Organisations Group – Scotland, better known simply as COGS. COGS replaced the former Community Development Committee and had a remit to provide a forum and focus for the interests of Councils of Social Service, Federations of Village Halls, and community associations. It was the forerunner of today’s CVS Scotland. At the same time the Scottish Council on Disability (Disability Scotland) was formed, and the Scottish Association of Citizens’ Advice Bureau was constituted in its own right and independent of SCSS.
The 1970s saw a gradual change in the way in which SCSS delivered its services with a greater emphasis given to training, information and advice, and policy so in 1982 a Policy Committee was formed to replace the old Executive Committee. In a further reflection of its evolving function the Council’s name was changed in 1983 to the Scottish Council for Community and Voluntary Organisations with the working title of Voluntary Action for Scotland. A period of long introspection followed, not least because no-one could easily pronounce the full name and because the abbreviation ‘SCCVO’ was equally tongue twisting. A resolution put to the members in 1985 that the name be changed yet again, to the Scottish Council for Voluntary Action was defeated because it might cause confusion with the newly formed Volunteer Development Scotland, but in 1986 the name Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations was finally adopted and has lasted until today.
By 1994 it was apparent that the Council’s governance would need further change to properly conduct the affairs of a rapidly evolving and expanding organisation so in 1995 the present committee structure was introduced; policy development for the voluntary sector in Scotland was devolved to a newly constituted Policy Committee nominated and elected by Council members, and day-today management the responsibility of a small number of Company Directors meeting as the Management Board.