Scottish Daily Mail
COSY WORLD OF CHARITY FAT CATS
On just one street, where public cash greases the wheels of the ‘third sector’
IT IS an unremarkable side-road in well-heeled Edinburgh suburbia.
But at one end of the thoroughfare sits a row of majestic Georgian townhouses.
Here, in these lavish properties – many of them listed buildings with a combined value of around £2million – live some of the leading lights of Scotland’s taxpayer-funded charity industry. This unique cluster of neighbours presents an intriguing microcosm of the vast – yet seemingly cosy – ‘third sector’ network.
Not only do they live side by side, but their various charitable ventures have also become intertwined – with public money greasing the wheels of an extraordinary cash merry-go-round.
Now the Scottish Daily Mail can reveal the series of astonishing coincidences that has been played out behind these closed doors – supposedly for our benefit and, inevitably, at our expense.
We have chosen not to name the street to protect the privacy of the individuals we have identified.
In the ground floor flat of a £400,000 listed property lives Lucy McTernan.
She is deputy chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), the umbrella group for charities north of the Border, which last financial year received more than £10million of taxpayers’ cash.
A mouthpiece for the ‘third sector’, it boasts a headquarters in the splendour of Edinburgh’s New Town and an £8million property portfolio.
Mrs McTernan, 47, was born Lucinda Pratt into a staunch Left-wing family in the north of England.
She first joined SCVO in 1993 and has worked her way up through the ranks, now earning between £60,000 and £70,000. In a dual role, she also sat on the Scottish committee for the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) from 2007 to 2014 as it approved hundreds of grants.
And here lies the first coincidence: a few months after Mrs McTernan joined the Lottery hierarchy, Towerbank After School Club in Portobello – a registered care provider attached to a school – was awarded a BLF grant of £6,166.
‘Transparency is crucial’
Records show Mrs McTernan was then among the club’s directors.
According to a BLF spokesman, speaking for Mrs McTernan, she ‘declared an interest in this club’ and was ‘not involved in any decision-making as… committee members do not make decisions on small grants’.
It is worth noting that, in 2012-13 the BLF also made awards on behalf of the Scottish Government’s Third Sector Early Intervention Fund, which channelled £20million to charities working to lay down roots for Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC).
GIRFEC has given rise to the SNP’s controversial Named Person scheme, whose goal is to assign every youngster a state guardian.
In a brief intermission in her SCVO career, Mrs McTernan spent a year as chief executive of the Scottish Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (SACAB) in 2010/11. SACAB had long attracted public funding and, during her time in office, it was given two BLF grants worth £411,566 and another for £6,111 from SCVO. BLF said this funding had been agreed prior to Mrs McTernan taking up the SACAB job.
Her husband Michael was a director of CAB Edinburgh from April 2007 until October 2009. Some £981,091 was awarded to SACAB by BLF in 2008 and BLF said: ‘Mrs McTernan was present at the committee meeting when this grant was awarded.’ She had declared her husband’s involvement in SACAB.
BLF said: ‘This award would have benefited all Scotland CABs, including CAB Edinburgh.’
In a nearby imposing listed villa lives Jackie Brock, who spent 13 years as a civil servant and rose to become the Scottish Government’s deputy director of learning and support. Her post put her at the heart of the GIRFEC project and she played a key role in implementing one of its central pillars, the Curriculum For Excellence, in 2010-11. It is still a source of chaos and confusion in classrooms today.
A year later, the 54-year-old moved to the role of chief executive of the charity Children In Scotland (CIS), an umbrella organisation which, in an echo of her Government role, has a ‘vision that Scotland will become a world leader in securing the well-being of every child’.
True to type, CIS has been in the vanguard of promoting the Named Person scheme, boasting it is helping ministers formulate guidance for the state guardians.
This is despite the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator warning that charities must not allow Scottish ministers to ‘direct or control’ their activities. Last financial year alone, CIS received 13 separate Scottish Government
grants totalling £644,000, more than a third of its income.
Since 2008, CIS has had £916,000 of BLF grants, most while Mrs McTernan sat on the fund’s Scottish committee.
According to a CIS spokesman, Miss Brock, who has been chief executive of the charity since July 2012, ‘has never discussed any BLF applications with Lucy McTernan’. He said: ‘It is important to stress that CIS has an explicitly charitable aim and purpose.’
Another Government favourite the BLF has been keen to support is the Children’s Parliament, which attracted headlines for laying on workshops teaching primary school children that Named Persons will be their ‘head gardener’ while the children would be the ‘plants’.
It has received £427,000 of Lottery cash since 2009 and nearly £3,000 from SCVO. There have also been grants worth £13,000 from CIS between 2010 and 2015. Miss Brock sat on the board of the Children’s Parliament between 2012 and 2014.
A CIS spokesman said CIS ‘together with the Children’s Parliament, Young Scot and Scottish Youth Parliament, received a joint grant from the Scottish Government for a school project titled Leaders of Learning’.
He added: ‘Children in Scotland administered the grant. Jackie Brock’s role on the board of the Children’s Parliament had no relevance to the Leaders of Learning grant award. It was awarded by the Scottish Government.’
Miss Brock has been on the board of the Capital-based feminist theatre group Stellar Quines, generously backed year after year by the arts quango Creative Scotland and which received a £3,473 grant from Mrs McTernan’s SCVO in 2013.
During most of her involvement in 2012, she was a civil servant. And in March of that year, Stellar Quines was the star turn at an Edinburgh event to mark International Women’s Day with a VIP guest, the then Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop. CIS told the Mail that Miss Brock resigned from the board of Stellar Quines in 2012 and ‘had had no involvement in any SCVO grant application before her departure’.
Miss Brock’s 57-year-old partner Ian Coldwell has been a director of a charity – Dance Base – which, among other public money, received £29,340 of Scottish Government funding while he was on the board between 1998 and 2009 and also four BLF grants since 2011.
BLF said: ‘The Fund has strict guidelines to ensure that all funding decisions agreed by committee members are impartial and fair. Committee members are required to declare essential information about their interests and those of their immediate family. Mrs McTernan would not have been part of the decision-making process on the four grants awarded as the Scotland Committee members do not make decisions on small grants.’
At a handsome grey-stone semidetached property lived Grant Sugden and Stephen Ewing, who have since moved. Mr Sugden, 45, has spent seven years as operations director of Circle Scotland that aims to improve children’s well-being by working with troubled families and has received BLF grants since 2012.
Between 2006 and 2007, he was also a director of a similar outfit, Home Link Family Support, which has received BLF cash since 2013. In 2011, he took up the post of chief
executive at the HIV charity Waverley Care in Edinburgh, the year in which it began taking annual BLF grants.
Again, BLF said ‘committee members are required to declare essential information about their interests and those of their immediate family’.
Meanwhile, in yet another coincidence, Mr Ewing, 50, was a director of Stellar Quines between 2009 and 2010.
A few yards across the street lives Susan Elsley, a freelance consultant.
For six years until September 2015, she was a director of the charity Together, also known as the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights, which is her specialist area.
The umbrella group is almost entirely funded by the Scottish Government and its members – who pay fees – include CIS, the Children’s Parliament, Circle Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council. It too is a supporter of GIRFEC and claims to have helped ministers draw up guidance for Named Persons.
Miss Elsley is now on the board of children’s theatre company Licketyspit, which tours schools with GIRFEC-based performances. It is funded by ministers – and the host for its tenth anniversary party in 2014 was Miss Brock. Miss Elsley was a director of the charity Play Scotland between 2008 and 2014; it has received £425,496 from the BLF since 2013.
She was on the board too of the statebacked campaigning charity the Poverty Alliance between 2003 and 2005, during which time it was handed £24,497 from SCVO. And Miss Elsley, 57, was one of the original board members of the Voluntary Action Fund (VAF), serving between 2003 and 2006.
It currently relies on public funds for 93 per cent of its £19.77million income, handling four major Scottish Government grant schemes covering equality, volunteering, community safety and violence against women.
Even though charities are legally obliged not to be controlled by the state, £18.37million of its income comes with strings attached, as the cash can only be distributed according to ministers’ stipulations.
Among the charities to have received payouts from VAF over the years are some familiar names: CIS, the Children’s Parliament, Home Link Family Support and Waverley Care.
CIS said it had paid £300 to Together in membership fees and revealed that Together rents office space from CIS at its offices in Haymarket, Edinburgh. A CIS spokesman said: ‘The fact Jackie Brock is a neighbour of Susan Elsley has no bearing on CIS’s relationship with Together.’
According to the BLF, Mrs McTernan ‘would not have been involved in the decision-making processes for any of these programmes’.
An SCVO spokesman said: ‘Our trustees and directors follow a conflict of interest policy which regulates behaviour and which requires the declaration of any personal or family interests.’
The extraordinary cat’s cradle of charity cash connections uncovered by the Mail in only one street shows how the third sector’s web of contacts can blur the boundaries between government, social enterprise and Left-wing policies – and how it flourishes with enormous sums of public money.
Commenting on the ‘social web’ underpinning the charity sector last night, Scottish Tory communities spokesman Annie Wells said ‘complete transparency’ was crucial to maintaining public confidence in charities.