Does Scotland Saying ‘No’ Mean a Rise in ‘Community’ Giving?


By Dr Claire Routley,

So the results of the Scottish referendum are in, and Scotland has voted to stay part of the United Kingdom. However, it looks like things most definitely won’t be carrying on as normal. Driven by the referendum, we’re likely to see the biggest constitutional change in our country since the Second World War, with even more powers being devolved across the nation. And this means that, in years to come, we may well increasingly have a sense of our national identity as “Welsh”, “Scottish”, “English” or “Irish” rather than “British”.

So what might this changing sense of national identity mean for charitable legacy giving?

Legacy Foresight (2011) have already seen legacy income growth in local organisations outpacing the growth in national brands. My own prediction is that locally-focused legacy giving will increase, alongside legacy giving to devolved arms of national brands, and gifts that are restricted to particular geographic locations.

There is a fascinating psychological theory – terror management – which explains why this might be the case. Terror management theory examines how we cope with the foreknowledge of our own deaths. One of the ways in which we do this is through developing a sense of symbolic immortality: a sense that we will live on through what we leave behind us.

Key to our sense of symbolic immortality is the idea of community – ultimately, it’s our community who will remember us, who will carry on our values and who will benefit from the charitable legacies that we leave behind us. A series of psychological experiments show that, when we are reminded of our own mortality, we cling to our sense of community, from believing that our local football team will beat their rivals, to being more likely to prefer our own country’s brand of cola!

So, who are our communities?

US academic and legacy expert, Russell James, sums up the situation well. He points out that ‘community’ can refer to a range of people, from friends, family and colleagues, to those with similar interests or affiliations. However, the idea of community can vary between individuals. Essentially, he argues, one’s community is those people one personally believes to be important.

As our sense of national identity evolves, then it is likely that so will our sense of community. And as that sense of community changes, so will the communities that we choose to support through our legacy giving.

On the face of it, British life carries on as normal. However, the impact of the referendum may be felt by charities for years to come through the legacy gifts they receive.

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