Foundations and Brexit: A view from… Scotland

In this series, we are taking a closer look at what Brexit means for foundations. We will include perspectives from across the UK and from funders with a number of specialisms and approaches. Although the situation changes daily and the implications are still uncertain, this series will explore some of the thoughts and reactions from within the sector. The first article in our series comes from Kenneth Ferguson, Director of the Robertson Trust.


A view from… Scotland

As Brexit unfolds, I see it very much as a UK situation and there are only a few elements that distinguish Scotland from England in this regard.

Unsurprisingly, there are resourcing concerns should key EU funding routes be closed. Scotland’s rural economy and communities, in particular, benefit greatly from EU structural funds and there is a lack of clarity on how this funding will be maintained.

For the 2014-20 programming period, Scotland was due to receive €476 million from the European Regional Development Fund and €464 million from the European Social Fund. This funding is underwritten by the Scottish Government until 2018 but that leaves uncertainty for the following two years. A significant proportion of this money is used for match funding and the issue as to where charities will continue to find this match is one that needs to be addressed.

Anecdotally, I have also heard of universities having difficulties attracting research partners due to an inability to guarantee that funding will continue.

Despite this increase in uncertainty, our grantees have not yet approached us to voice their concerns.

On a positive note, I do see significant opportunities in terms of replacing EU directives, particularly those on VAT and procurement, and working towards implementation of new laws that offer a better deal for charities.

My over-riding hope is that Brexit will focus minds on being innovative and finding new ways of doing things. I am particularly interested in encouraging alternative means of financing public services and I believe the uncertainty created by Brexit should be used as a catalyst for innovation. The Robertson Trust recently hosted an event in Glasgow called ‘Alternative funding models for public services in Scotland’, which brought together key decision-makers to discuss different models. It proved to be a highly encouraging workshop and I think there is now no better time to turn talk like this into action.

Although it is more likely to be budget finance and local government settlements that drive these kinds of developments, perhaps Brexit will lead to a paradigm shift that encourages greater innovation and stronger partnership working. Ultimately, this could, in turn, shape Scotland’s response.

Foundations undoubtedly will have a key role to play in this, particularly as we are able to take a long-term view.


Kenneth Ferguson

The Robertson Trust


Other articles in this series:

A view from... arts & culture funding
A view from... science funding
A view from... Northern Ireland
A view from... Wales
A view from... medical research
A view from... environmental funding
A view from... Europe

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