Philanthropists 'no safety net' for big society

SCOTLAND's biggest charitable donors are reluctant to pick up the tab for Prime Minister David Cameron's "big society", Lord Smith of Kelvin has warned.

However the patron of the Scottish Community Foundation (SCF) charity cautioned that philanthropists may not have any choice as frontline services take deep cuts.

Smith, who is also chairman of Weir Group and Scottish & Southern Energy, hosted an event in Edinburgh last week aimed at promoting ways charitable donations by the wealthy can be used most effectively.

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He told Scotland on Sunday: "Philanthropists want to give in addition to core services - they are not too keen on this idea we will be sucked into replacing what government ought to be doing.

"But if needs must and people are suffering, maybe these are the areas we have to get into."

A panel of high profile charitable givers including Smith, Stagecoach founder Ann Gloag and Jim McColl, chief executive of Clyde Blowers, spoke at the event.

Instead of the wealthy coming to the aid of government, McColl said charities first needed to be as efficient as businesses.

"We need to see smarter thinking from philanthropists and charities to make sure that money is used effectively. I'd like to see more collaboration between charities and in some cases the amalgamation of charities that are working in similar fields," he said. "There are lots of charities ... competing for the same funding."

Ann Boyd, chair of SCF said that if charities have to fill in the gaps, the government must support them.

"Westminster's proposed big society wants charities to step in and provide services, but the government needs to commit to the third sector by offering contracts that guarantee long-term support and funding," said Boyd.