CHARITIES and voluntary groups in Scotland are facing a crippling 70% cut in Lottery funding from next April as funds are sucked away to feed the vast £10bn cost of the 2012 London Olympics.
The body which represents Scotland's charities will warn this week that the Lottery cash available to good causes next year will plummet from 90m to just 25m.
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) claims that the cut will have a "devastating" effect on charities across Scotland, many of which rely on Lottery cash to keep going.
The massive cutback is being triggered after ministers agreed to plough 2.2bn of Lottery cash into paying for the Olympics. Charities, arts groups and sports bodies across Scotland and the rest of the UK warned that the raid on Lottery funds would choke off funds to themselves, but the full scale of the cutbacks is only now becoming clear.
According to the SCVO, the Big Lottery Fund – which distributes most of the cash available from the weekly national draw – will feel the effects the hardest. In Scotland, they claim that BLF funding will fall from 257m between 2006-09 to just 90m between 2009-12.
The SCVO says that many groups will not be able to keep going because the cuts will last right up until 2012. Only after the Games are finished in 2012 will the sums start to rise once more. However, even then, SCVO officials say it will be 2015 before funding returns to current levels.
The anger in Scotland is being felt across much of England as well, where charities and voluntary groups are also complaining about the vast sums which have been diverted from good causes to build the Olympic site in east London.
The cuts are also set to hit the arts and sports bodies across the UK which distribute smaller sums of Lottery cash. However, UK ministers insist that the chance to host the Olympics is a "once in a generation" chance for the whole country to enjoy.
In Scotland, groups which may now face heavy cuts include the well-known charity Quarriers Village, the carers for vulnerable people, and Fairbridge, a leading charity which attempts to prevent ex-prisoners from re-offending.
Lucy McTernan, acting chief executive of SCVO, said: "The scale of the cuts is truly devastating for the voluntary sector as many charities, voluntary organisations and community projects in Scotland depend on such funding for their survival, especially in these difficult times. We are strongly urging the UK Government to compensate Scottish charities for the loss of Lottery funding which was diverted to pay for the Olympics."
Lawrie Russell, chief executive of the Wise Group, a charity which helps unemployed people get back to work, said that the cuts may prevent them from expanding projects.
"Potentially, this will have a big impact on the whole sector," he said.
Sources in the SCVO said they had been preparing for a reduction in funds due to the Olympics but were "shocked" last week when the true scale of the reduction became clear.
Alison Magee, Big Lottery Fund Scotland's chairwoman, confirmed: "We will have less money available in the years leading up to 2012 due to the Olympic diversion."
Scottish Sports Minister Stewart Maxwell said last night: "These are very worrying figures that point to a dramatic reduction in Lottery funding for Scotland. It cannot be right that the budget for Scotland's community and charitable organisations is reduced by around 70% – more than 150m – to finance the 2012 Olympic Games."
But a spokeswoman for the Department for Media, Culture and Sport pointed to the massive benefits which, she claimed, would accrue to the whole country from the Games.
She said: "Hosting the Olympic Games is a once in a generation opportunity that will benefit the whole of the UK: a legacy of world-class facilities, the inspiration of a generation to get active and take up sport, as well as huge economic and business benefits with 6bn worth of contracts.
"Scotland will host Olympic football at Hampden Park and 29 locations across Scotland are included in the official guide to pre-Games training facilities for foreign teams in 2012."
She added: "Scotland has received over 2bn in Lottery money since 1994 and we are clear that no further diversion from Lottery good causes will go to fund the Olympics."
Earlier this year, Scotland on Sunday launched a campaign to win a substantial sum of Lottery funds to help to create a sporting legacy from Glasgow's 2014 Commonwealth Games. Campaigners point out that sportscotland, which distributes Lottery funds for sporting groups, is believed to have lost 13m in funds which will now be spent on the Olympics.