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The voluntary and charitable sector is a key and important part of the Scottish way of life. Last year, four in every five Scots used a third sector organisation in some capacity, which speaks volumes about the importance of the voluntary sector in Scotland’s communities.
The third sector plays a key role in the lives of many in our communities who need our help and assistance. Churches, charitable organisations and volunteers all have a role to play. Indeed, we all benefit from and need the third sector. It is true that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Government and state organisations simply could not make up the gap if the third sector that we rely on was to disappear overnight.
It is my understanding that some 32 per cent of people in the city of Edinburgh participate regularly in voluntary work, which is slightly above the national average. However, whatever the statistics say, it is important to encourage more people everywhere, including young people, to engage in volunteering to ensure that the level of commitment that we have seen in Scotland in the past continues. It is also important that the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government play their roles in facilitating the voluntary sector, and do not place unnecessary regulatory or other burdens on it.
Part of the Parliament’s role is about the public perception of the third sector, and the Parliament and its facilities present an opportunity to showcase the work of the third sector. Today, I attended an event in the Parliament that was held by Safe Families For Children Scotland, which is a charity that, according to its website,
“provides isolated families going through a difficult time with support and guidance by offering friendship, resources and a short break for children until their parents are back on their feet with a stable support network around them.”
It is but one of the myriad of charities that, over the years, have held receptions and events here in the Scottish Parliament.
Many charities from close by have been named in the Parliament, including Bethany Christian Trust for the homeless and Social Bite which, in the recent past, has begun new community projects constructing sustainable homes for those who find themselves without a home.
Let us in this Parliament continue to support all worthwhile third sector charities and organisations throughout Scotland, as well as umbrella organisations such as the SCVO. Let us support them in what we say and what we do.