Smith Hails European Parliament Support For Volunteering

27 November 2009
SNP MEP Alyn Smith has today hailed a vote in the European Parliament in Strasbourg endorsing the Scurria Report setting out a road map on how the EU can best maximise the impact of the European Year of the Volunteer in 2011 as good news for volunteering in Scotland and the EU.

The report was adopted by 551 votes in favour, with only 19 MEPs against.

The report highlights the need, across the EU as a whole, to:

  • clarify the legal status of volunteering;
  • ensure that volunteers are properly protected in terms of safety at work, health and social cover;
  • facilitate the validation of experience acquired and the recognition of equivalence for the purposes of training and job seeking;
  • make it possible for volunteer organisations to be VAT-exempt in order to encourage as many non-commercial organisations as possible to use volunteers;
  • make it easier for volunteer organisations to access adequate, sustainable funding, without subjecting them to too much red tape, while at the same time maintaining proper supervision of the use of public money and placing time-limits on voluntary work;
  • combat all forms of discrimination;
  • encourage volunteering as a means of promoting peace, North-South cooperation and protection of the environment, as well as developing - and affording recognition to - the solidarity-based social economy;
  • institute a permanent working partnership with volunteer organisations and create a stable institutional framework for their involvement in public consultation. The Commission must take the administrative and institutional steps needed to ensure that the principle of partnership, contained in the Community's strategic guidelines on cohesion and rural development, is observed and applied; and crucially
  • to ensure that the 2011 European Year of Volunteering has a big enough budget to be a success.

Volunteer Development Scotland, Scotland's Centre for Excellence in volunteering, has hailed the announcement as a major step towards a successful European Year of Volunteering - this vote demonstrates the commitment of all the institution of the EU to volunteering. Importantly the report also stresses the need to pursue the development of volunteering beyond 2011.

Approximately 100 million EU citizens volunteer and in Scotland alone we have 1.3 million volunteers - contributing some ÂŁ2.2 billion to Scotland's economy.

Speaking after the vote, Smith said:

"It is high time that we celebrate the important contribution volunteering makes to our society, and the role of the third sector in service delivery and public policy.

"I'm delighted this report passed with such an overwhelming majority, it is good news all the way for Scotland. Volunteering in Scotland is more developed than in many EU countries, and not only plays an important role in day to day service provision, it also plays an important part in encouraging community life and offers people of all ages and backgrounds a wealth of opportunities. We talk a great deal about active citizenship and engagement, volunteering is that in action.

"EY11 will give us all the opportunity to appreciate and encourage the diversity that all ready exists within our voluntary sector. It will also give us a chance to realise the huge potential and learning opportunity involved in a year of exchange of information and best practice, as Scotland has a wealth of experience to offer, and indeed plenty to learn. In gaining this vital information we can create tools to support voluntary work and in time build up an infrastructure that will allow any citizen wishing to volunteer do to so."

George Thomson, Chief Executive Officer of Volunteer Development Scotland, said:

"Now is the time to begin creating the partnerships which will be vital to the success of 2011. We want to drive this forward by bring together our MEPs, the Scottish Government and key volunteering stakeholders to shape Scotland's engagement with, and contribution to, the Year of Volunteering."