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CAF Policy Team

A champion for charities

Charities Aid Foundation


30 May 2017

Scotland’s First Minister launched her party’s general election manifesto today to a packed hall in Perthshire. Nicola Sturgeon seemed to be in high spirits; laughing with journalists and cracking jokes off the cuff. And why wouldn’t she be? She’s arguably in the strongest position of any politician in the UK, with one of the biggest mandates to lead and one of the most successful electoral records of the past decade.

But amongst today’s carnival atmosphere there was a serious message from the SNP – that they are the best party to represent Scotland at Westminster and Scots should give Ms Sturgeon the mandate she needs to get a place at the Brexit negotiating table. Their manifesto gave as much space to setting out their record in government in Scotland as it did to their policy proposals for this election. Some would argue that’s just good politics; they can’t win at this election, the most they can do is maintain their position as their nation’s biggest party (and the third largest party in the UK Parliament) and surely the best way of doing that is holding up their record for all to see. But just what did they have to say?

The SNP’s manifesto is one that focuses on many areas that will resonate with charities. Not least because they are a party which unequivocally sets out their plans to repeal the parts of the Lobbying Act which are having a negative impact on charities. Just today we’ve seen yet more evidence that the Lobbying Act is stopping charities from standing up for people at this election, and the SNP are right to point out the damage this piece of legislation is doing, and right to say they’d scrap the worst of it. They join the Labour Party in this regard, and increasingly even politicians who voted for the Lobbying Act are seeing the impact that it is having.

But beyond that, the SNP has set out an agenda that will be familiar to many charities. Plans to tackle social injustices like poverty and gender inequality; commitments to protect the progress made in the last few decades on issues like environmental policy and tackling climate change; a pledge to protect human rights and to support the UK’s global efforts to use international aid to eradicate global poverty and enhance civil society – many of these areas offer the SNP and opportunity to find common ground with charities. But it is disappointing that the SNP (just like every other major party to have published their manifesto) has failed to acknowledge the contribution that charities can make in these areas, and does not pledge to work with them going forwards. They talk of working with businesses and trade unions on workers’ rights, they talk of working with other devolved administrations and with global institutions, but nowhere is there a commitment to work with, or draw upon the knowledge that our sector has to offer, and that is a real shame.

Of course the SNP are not fighting this election to be in government – the very fact that they don’t stand candidates outside of Scotland puts an end to that - but this election is an opportunity to advance their priorities. Those are made clear in this manifesto – independence, when the time is right; social justice – for all, not just those in Scotland; and a desire for a strong Scotland – not just within the UK, but internationally too.

This is the last of the major party manifestos to be published, and we’ll be doing a round up of what they all mean soon. But it’s safe to say at this point that whilst there have been some individual policies which have caught our eye (for example, the 0.7% commitment on aid, scrapping the lobbying act, tackling poverty and inequality), pretty much all of them have failed to fully recognise the contribution our sector makes to society, and the potential we have to offer in helping to deliver radical policy change for the future.

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