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March 3, 2010

Where lies the future of public services?

Scottish think tank, Reform Scotland, has been considering the thorny issue of public service reform and concludes there needs to be much greater diversity in the way services are delivered. They stress this is not an argument for greater privatisation. Instead they see a much stronger role for the third sector with responsibility and control over services being devolved much closer to communities.  Their latest report – Voluntary Power – is out for consultation

Reform Scotland. 1/3/10

Over time, too much power has been taken away from people and local communities in Scotland and transferred to central government.  The public are increasingly unhappy with the results of this because it has not led to the quality of public services seen in many other countries and has opened up an increasing divide between the governing and the governed who have little ability to shape their own lives and the future of their communities. The key to changing this and creating a better, fairer society is to ensure that power is exercised by people or as close to them as possible so that people and local communities assume greater responsibility for their own development.  This enables them to choose their own goals and how they might be achieved rather than have government choose for them.

That is why Reform Scotland’s work, across a number of different areas of policy, has set out how just such a devolution of power can be achieved.  

The third sector is vital to this transformation because it empowers people, enabling them to come together to achieve shared goals or tackle specific problems which improve society for the benefit of all.  It provides clear benefits to society because in many areas it has pioneered new and better ways of meeting the needs of people and simply by offering an alternative to public sector provision it enhances the choices available.  Therefore, we need a shift in power from government to the institutions of civil society and, in particular, an increase in the role of the third sector in Scotland.  Such a change cannot be achieved overnight.  In ‘Voluntary Power’ Reform Scotland sets out a number of recommendations for discussion to achieve this shift in power. 

For more information on Voluntary Power visit

The deadline for responding to the issues raised in the report is 30 June 2010.  Responses should either be emailed to or posted to:

Voluntary Power Consultation
Reform Scotland
The Executive Centre
7-9 North St David Street