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Safeguarding: The Scottish Context

The following are key aspects regarding safeguarding in international development and humanitarian aid that are specific to organisations with a base in Scotland. 

Scottish Government’s International Development Programme

“The Scottish Government expects the highest moral and ethical standards from those we fund to provide services to those people and communities who look to our support at their time of greatest need.”

(Extract from Scottish Government’s International Development Safeguarding Policy)

The Scottish Government continues to strengthen and refine its commitments to safeguarding, as laid out in the Scottish Government’s International Development Safeguarding Policy, and updates grant conditions as required.

This has been accompanied by collaboration with the Alliance since 2018 which has enabled the Alliance to identify and address areas to strengthen safeguarding capacity and provide safeguarding support to Scottish organisations working overseas. As stated by the then Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development, Ben MacPherson MSP, “Safeguarding is an issue which is of paramount importance to all organisations involved in providing support and help to the most vulnerable members of our communities. That is the case whether that support is in Scotland or directed overseas”. 

The publication of the Scottish Government’s International Development Review in March 2021 now sees safeguarding embedded as a key element: 

  1. Through its 8th and final cross-cutting principle, calling on all activities within the Scottish Government international development programme to be ‘Accountable, Transparent and Safe’, and demanding that ‘all of our work has appropriate safeguarding policies and practices in place’. 
  2. Within its new Equalities Programme, which focuses on inequalities faced by women and girls, and highlights the increased levels of domestic violence and lack of access to services faced by women and children since Covid-19.

Scottish Policy & Legislative Framework


As the independent regulator and registrar for Scotland’s charities, OSCR publishes its OSCR guidance on safeguarding which is specific to charities registered in Scotland, and all trustees of Scottish charities should be use this as a reference. The Alliance works in close collaboration with OSCR, to ensure that the specific contexts of the international development sector are accounted for.

Watch our video to see OSCR’s former Head of Engagement Jude Turbine advise on the reporting of ‘Notifiable Events’, which includes safeguarding incidents.

Disclosure Scotland & the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme

Disclosure Scotland is the government agency managing and delivering the PVG membership scheme (equivalent to DBS checks in England and Wales), which “helps ensure people whose behaviour makes them unsuitable to work with children and protected adults cannot do ‘regulated work’ with these vulnerable groups”. 

Previously the PVG scheme only applied to work carried out in Scotland, but recent changes attempting to address safeguarding risks in an international context now mean that employers can apply to have an individual PVG-checked when that work, if done in Scotland, would be considered to be ‘regulated work’. Find out what is covered by PVG.

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