We cannot allow the prospect of uncertainty around resourcing and funding the sector to dominate our response to Brexit, but we mustn’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore it either. Other sectors, including farming and business, are already making strong cases for continued investment, and if we are weak or disjointed in our messaging from this point we leave ourselves at risk.
The diversity of our sector is both our strength and our weakness. More than ever we’ll need strong leadership from organisations such as SCVO who represent collective views to pull this all together in a compelling way.
Right now, we can support the debate by answering three key questions:
- What are the real issues impacting Scotland now and in the future as a result of Brexit?
- What issues are constraining/will constrain the sector from being able to tackle these issues?
- What are some of the potential solutions to those problems?
We are better placed than most to help support finding the answer to these questions, and we need to make sure our voice is heard in helping to address them.
That process has already started, with an interesting session between third sector leaders and two members of the current cabinet – Keith Brown MSP and Angela Constance MSP. At the session a number of issues were tackled. These included funding, disabled workers rights, equalities, research and shared learning/collaboration with our partners in Europe.
It’s really important that we give evidence, facts and crystal clear detail in answering these questions. One of the issues I raised at the forum was freedom of movement, which in itself is a well versed issue, but to allow a dialogue to start we need to help politicians understand the urgency and detail behind each of them.
At ProjectScotland, we have supported hundreds of young people who over the years have come to Scotland for study or work from other EU countries. Many of them are now in employment in the sector, and are worried about their futures.
And we should be too – more than most other sectors. Why? The sector has never paid well compared to other sectors. The UK national average salary for the sector is £26,500, and in Scotland we sit at just £23,987. Even if current EU nationals are allowed to apply to stay, if current UK Citizenship rules apply they will need to be earning at least £35,000 per annum. That would count out the vast majority of this sector’s EU workforce from staying in the country, at a time when we need all that skill and talent the most.
It’s that level of specificity as to the issues we need to be feeding into the process, to make sure solutions are formed that allow the sector to help continue to do what it does so well.
Brexit will impact all of us, if it hasn’t already. Let’s get proactive and play a role in shaping Scotland’s response, before that opportunity passes us by.