Scotland’s Advisory Group for Economic Recovery for Scotland published a report last month which paid tribute to the country’s voluntary sector and noted that action was required to protect the capacity and financial sustainability of the sector. Voluntary organisations have played an integral role in guiding Scotland through the coronavirus pandemic but it is not just in the midst of the crisis where voluntary organisations can lend a helping hand. During the recovery and renewal phase, these organisations can play a central part of any rebuilding discussion. The sector, via SCVO, has already laid out some of its thoughts on what type of country Scotland should aim to be and these ideas have been central in SCVO’s response to recent government consultations and external communications.

The SCVO Policy Forum was an SCVO initiative, which ran throughout 2019 and 2020, to strengthen the voice of the voluntary sector in Scotland. Members of the Forum were supported by SCVO to take a lead role on behalf of SCVO and the wider voluntary sector to think about the future of the social, political, environmental and economic context within which the sector operates. In February 2020 at The Gathering, SCVO’s Policy Forum published its Manifesto for the Future. Well before the impact of coronavirus was felt throughout the county and the terms ‘recovery’ and ‘renewal’ were being mentioned, a group of individuals from throughout Scotland’s voluntary sector came together to map out a vision for the country’s future. This vision outlined a number of future-focused recommendations which aim to address some of the most profound social, economic, political and environmental changes in living memory, many of which are now exacerbated by the impact of the global health pandemic we are currently experiencing. The Forum, throughout 2019, brought together leading academics and experts who gave their opinion on what Scotland needed to do to instigate the change required to achieve a productive and sustainable future. These opinions we fed directly into the Manifesto.

The Manifesto outlined three areas of significant importance which require action:

1. Planet: The implementation of changes which would see Scotland secure environmental action and take responsibility for the planet and its future generations are discussed throughout the publication.

2. Humanity: The Manifesto asked that Scotland look to take the lead in supporting human rights, equality and wellbeing for all.

3. Citizenship: Scotland was challenged in the Manifesto to foster an environment which enhances, citizenship, democracy and participation.

These are areas in which much of the discussion around ‘renewal’ and ‘recovery’ post-pandemic has focussed upon. The Manifesto for the Future did not take into account the possibility of a global health pandemic and its subsequent impact when it was published earlier this year. However, the recommendations in it are timely and thoughtful and would help to build a stronger Scotland for everyone. SCVO has used the Manifesto’s themes and recommendations to form the basis of our thinking in responding to the Scottish Government’s Framework for Decision Making, our submission to the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery and throughout our response to the pandemic. The Manifesto’s ideas lay a potential foundation for Scotland to build on post-pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic was unprecedented by many and has impacted every corner of society. The consequences for the private, public and voluntary sector are hard to predict in these early stages. However, with such upheaval, there is an opportunity to change the way we do things in Scotland. As

we move out of the depths of the pandemic, a lot of talk has turned to the ‘recovery’ and ‘renewal’ phase. Thought leaders and policymakers have spoken in length over the past few months on how the pandemic gives us the chance to reform public services, protect the environment, change our lifestyles and improve our democratic processes. But what does this look like in practice and can it be achieved without proper buy-in across every sector of society? The ideas contained within the SCVO Policy Forum’s Manifesto for the Future can act as the basis for new ways of working, but as many in the voluntary sector and beyond are aware, talk is cheap. The communities and people the sector serve need policymakers to make firm commitments to action if we are to truly recover from the last few months of uncertainty and worry without leaving anyone behind.