Section 67 — Fees

Part of Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:00 am on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 10:00 am, 8th March 2007

I support the thrust of Adam Ingram's argument. Many voluntary organisations are greatly concerned about fees. I accept the minister's rebuke that we should not speak about the voluntary sector as though it were a homogenous globe, but many small organisations greatly fear that fees will go up. All history justifies that fear. POCSA was a complete shambles—it was a disaster in financial and administrative terms, so how will small organisations know that the new set-up will be any better? We have to assuage people's fears about future increases.

I have taken an interest in the procedures of Parliament; the notion that people who are worried about a particular matter can somehow have it discussed in Parliament is a complete illusion. We must have rules so that, if the Executive wishes to do something, it has to come to Parliament for a vote. It is reasonable to request that the issue that we are discussing in this group of amendments should automatically come before Parliament.

I want to make a wider point. The concept behind the fees is that the system should be self-financing. For lawyers or estate agents, for example, there should be a regulatory system to ensure that they operate honestly and within the rules and it is fair enough that those people should pay for that system out their fees. To impose the same sort of system on the voluntary sector, however, with its many different types of organisation, would be a serious policy mistake, based on a fallacy. People in those organisations give up their time to do exactly what Parliament and the Executive want. They organise good activities for young people, which—among other benefits—keep them out of trouble, and they organise help for older people, thus saving the health service and local authorities a great deal of money.

The organisations provide a public benefit at cost to themselves, so why should they be charged for people being studied to see whether they are fit to do the job? I accept that, at the moment, there is no charge for the individual volunteer, but the administrative costs to the organisations will be considerable. We should not have a charging regime that affects them; in fact, we should financially help the organisations that provide advice to smaller voluntary organisations on how to get through the bureaucratic jungle. That would enable those smaller organisations to help their local communities—which is what they want to do—rather than filling in forms. There is a lot wrong in the Executive's way of going about things.