Scottish Government have finalised their review of third sector interfaces and Voluntary Action Scotland and set out their approach to supporting local third sector infrastructure across Scotland. With a view of affirming and developing the Third Sector Interface role as local strategic bodies for the sector at local level in the short term, and a commitment to an on-going dialogue to involving communities in tackling the larger issues facing Scotland in the longer term.

The board of trustees of Voluntary Action Scotland welcomes the positioning of local third sector infrastructure organisations as strategic third sector bodies and is cautiously optimistic about the broader approach of supporting the TSI network through a process of change.

Putting communities at the heart of local decision making, and strengthening the role of Third Sector Interfaces as organisations enabling this is something that the TSI network has argued for for some time. We are however concerned that the decision to cease funding Voluntary Action Scotland after September 2018 means the possible removal of a much needed voice of the community sector at the national level during an important change process. If the future of local third sector infrastructure is focused on responding to what statutory bodies are required to do then this could lead to a weakening of the independence of the community sector. We don’t want the needs and wants of communities to be lost to the might of the statutory sector.

The next part of this journey offers opportunities and challenges for all involved. We do believe that a network organisation – such as Voluntary Action Scotland – is needed to support this process. An overwhelming majority of the  network of Third Sector Interface chief officers recently reaffirmed their desire for a network organisation and they were clear on the roles and purpose of that organisation.

Early in 2018 the board of Voluntary Action Scotland will explore options for maintaining these roles with a view to establishing a strong voice for the community sector in 2018 and beyond.