Big Society?

Voluntary Clean Up in Cairo

David Cameron announces today a package of initiatives to give substance to his flagship policy and to counter the charge that it’s just a cover for cutting the state. “The Big Society is my mission in politics. It is here to stay.”

The Big Society Bank will co-fund charitable projects, offering start-up capital alongside private investors. There are also long-term plans for a Big Society university, which would train community volunteers and social entrepreneurs. A “Social Stock Exchange” will allow people to buy stakes in projects that bid for contracts providing public services, receiving a return as the project gets public money on a “payment by results” basis. Such stakes could then be held in new individual savings accounts.

There is a strangely quiet consensus that Scotland is staying aloof from all of this. There is no Big Society here.

So charities in Scotland are now having their grants cut, staff laid off, services closed, people in need turned away – and this is just the beginning. We’re getting the pain but none of the gain, if that’s what today’s announcements are. As our trustee John Lawrie says, the moral high ground can be a cold and hungry place.

Maybe in the run up to the Scottish Elections we should ask those who want our votes what the positive alternative to Big Society is for Scotland? We need vision and hope.



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