The Gathering, Glasgow - 21st-22nd February 2018
The EPLO Edinburgh team participated in and hosted a panel discussion at The Gathering 2018 in the SEC Glasgow between 21st and 22nd February. Organised by SCVO, The Gathering is the UK’s largest annual meeting point for third sector organisations to come together, showcasing their work to fellow organisations and the general public.
The Edinburgh team were delighted to meet members of the public at their stand, offering information about the Scottish MEPs and how the European Parliament is represented throughout Scotland and the UK more widely, along with distributing useful reading materials. Many were curious about the responsibilities of MEPs in the European Parliament, as well as how they, as individuals, can continue to engage with the EU institutions.
A highlight from the two-day event was the discussion panel organised by the Edinburgh team, focusing on Brexit and the Voluntary Sector. Moderated by journalist and broadcaster Charles Fletcher, the panellists included Oonagh Aitken from Volunteering Matters; Professor Nicole Busby of Strathclyde University; and Anthony Salamone, incoming Co-Editor of the Journal of Contemporary European Research.
The panel was an excellent opportunity for representatives of the third sector to express their concerns as well as present the projects their organisations are undertaking on the impact of Brexit on the voluntary sector. One of the major themes in the discussion included the Erasmus Plus programme, and what this might look like in the future. Introduced by the Head of Office, Per Johansson, the discussion was then opened by Fletcher, who stressed that the voluntary sector is now seeking to have some certainty in a time of such great uncertainty.
“The UK’s voluntary sector is highly regarded in Europe for its transparency and accountability”, said Aitken, who hopes that the social interaction between the UK and Europe’s voluntary sectors will continue even beyond Brexit. From a legal perspective, Professor Busby stressed that while many of the implications on the third sector have yet to unfold, civil rights organisations have voiced concern over rights (including equality and employment rights), as well as the future of social funds and the knock-on effects on poverty in Scotland. Still determined to influence the negotiation process and offer support to organisations, Busby encouraged the wider public to continue their engagement and involvement.
Additionally, Aitken and Salamone expressed worries over programmes such as Erasmus Plus and the effects these would have on young people and their social mobility, given that 2018 is the Year of Young People in Scotland. Salamone, Strategic Advisor at the Scottish Centre on European Relations (SCER), offered a ‘think-tank’ lens on how the UK’s continued membership of certain programmes may be affected and questioned whether Erasmus is a current priority for the Government. All three panellists agreed that changes in the Single Market and freedom of movement would undoubtedly affect the UK’s voluntary organisations.
Missed the event? Watch the panel discussion here.