The Deputy First Minister will be aware that millions of pounds of European funding could be withheld from voluntary organisations and local authorities across Scotland. Given that that could lead to employability projects closing, job losses and cuts to services for vulnerable people, why did the Government not heed the warnings more than a year ago? It is the Government’s responsibility to administer the scheme, so why has nothing been done to avert the crisis? Will the Deputy First Minister act urgently and guarantee to fund the £22 million gap? I will accept an answer of “Yes”.
Jackie Baillie knows that she is one of my favourites, so she would expect a bit more detail.
I acknowledge the importance of the issue and the manner in which the member sets it out, because the issue affects the prospects of a number of third sector organisations on which we all rely in our communities. We understand those concerns, and those of local authorities, and we have been engaging in discussion with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on that question. We are determined to avoid any charity or third sector body going out of business as a result of the issue.
We have been doing a great deal on the matter. We have been in discussion with the European Commission to explore resolutions to the audit issues. Last Friday, we presented possible solutions to the Commission, and we are awaiting a response.
We continue to make payments to projects unaffected by the issues. I assure Jackie Baillie that intense activity is under way to resolve the questions and to give the security and certainty that third sector organisations want. Ministers will be happy to update Parliament on those questions in due course.
The Presiding Officer:
It is rare that I say this to you, Mr Swinney, but some members cannot quite hear you. It is just when you are swivelling, so try to face the front when you are making your remarks.