SCVO chief criticised by newspaper over round-the-world trip funded by Scottish government

Martin Sime, who has been accused of being too close to the SNP, has ‘questions to answer’ over sabbatical in 2008 and 2009, according to The Herald

Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, has come under attack in the Scottish press for taking a six-month round-the-world sabbatical in 2008 and 2009, funded by an £8,900 government grant made while the Scottish National Party was in power.

Sime has previously been accused by Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, of being too closely connected to the Scottish National Party because of his public support for a second question on the ballot paper in any vote on Scottish independence, asking whether the Scottish Parliament should have greater powers.

Alison Elliot, convenor of the SCVO (the equivalent of a chair of trustees), rejected Rennie’s call that she ask Sime to resign, calling allegations against him “preposterous”.

An article in The Herald newspaper this week said the information that Sime had received a grant from the government for a sabbatical “raised fresh questions about his position”.

Sime used the grant to travel to countries including the US, Canada, South Africa, Mozambique, Ireland, India, the Philippines, New Zealand and Australia. He worked as a visiting professor in the US, wrote a blog about his experiences and submitted a project report to the Scottish government.

A statement from the SCVO said: “In the summer of 2008, the SCVO management board approved a project involving a six-month sabbatical for its chief executive, Martin Sime, to study government/third sector relationships in different countries around the world with logistical assistance from Civicus, the global alliance of civil society and their network of national civil society organisations.

“SCVO applied for and received a Scottish government grant offer of up to £10,000 to support the project. On completion of the project, Mr Sime returned to his post in April 2009.
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“A grant of £8,923 was claimed from the Scottish government and SCVO incurred further costs of £4,627. No funds were spent or claimed for personal travel for social purposes.”

Sime was last week accused by Rennie of being too close to the SNP, because the SCVO has publicly supported the idea that a second question should be included on the ballot paper during any vote on Scottish independence, asking whether the Scottish Parliament should have greater powers.

The SNP is known to favour this option, known as “devo max”, but will not publicly campaign for it.

Rennie wrote to Elliot, suggesting she ask Sime to resign, after it was revealed that Sime had received an email from a special adviser to Alex Salmond, Scottish first minister and leader of the SNP, containing evidence that Scots would support a second question.