Keep debate alive

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While I agree with Lesslie Young’s comment (Friends of the Scotsman, 8 July) that campaigning in the referendum inevitably carries with it a reputational risk, I would hasten to add that taking risks to the benefit of our members and cause is a fundamental part of what being a charity is all about.

Charity trustees make judgment calls on the risks associated with campaigning day in and day out, they are perfectly placed to do likewise in terms of the referendum. The law has always permitted charities to campaign on issues which further their charitable purposes, provided that they do not promote a particular political party.

Since both the Yes and No campaigns hold cross-party support, charities should be free to campaign for a particular outcome if they believe it will help them to achieve their goals.

Charities have a vital contribution to make to Scotland’s constitutional future by ensuring that the voices of vulnerable people which all too often are ignored in this debate are heard.

As we await Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator’s final guidance on participation in the Scottish independence referendum, I hope it will bring complete clarity on this issue and help to encourage a more confident culture for charity campaigning.

The constitutional debate will influence important issues such as poverty and inequality, and the third sector should be at the heart of these discussions. We want more debate, not less.

John Downie

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

Mansfield Place

Edinburgh

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