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Keywords:

  • voluntarism;
  • devolution;
  • civil society;
  • England;
  • Wales;
  • rural Scotland

Across Great Britain, engagement with civil society is an increasingly central component of public policy and governance rhetoric. However, attention has tended to focus on policy developments emanating from Westminster that relate to England, rather than the policy and governance ‘spaces’ emerging in the devolved administrations, such as Scotland and Wales. It has also tended to focus on the organisations through which voluntary participation takes place, rather than on voluntary participation itself. In this paper we examine the extent to which there are divergent governance spaces with regards to voluntarism apparent at the national levels of England, Wales and Scotland, set against a backdrop of wider debates on devolution, civil society, community, and the Big Society. Given the common driver of public service reform which emerges from our review, we then examine the emergence of sub-national ‘spaces’ through the example of rural Scotland, in which the delivery of public services can be particularly challenging. Overall, we contend that public policy towards volunteering and the voluntary and community sector (VCS) in Scotland, Wales and England has been shaped by similar drivers, but the rhetoric surrounding their deployment and the distinct governance landscapes in Wales and Scotland have the capacity to influence the deployment of these goals in distinct ways. We also argue that greater attention may need to be paid to emergent ‘sub-national’ governances spaces of voluntarism.