The Scottish Government is considering extending funding allocations to charities from one year to three years to provide them with more security, the Finance Secretary has said.

John Swinney has agreed in principle with a Conservative Party bid to make three-year funding a general rule for third-sector allocation.

The Scottish Government has already set out its ambition for three-year funding to be the norm in a 2009 agreement with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

However, Mr Swinney said this amounted to a preference rather than a mandatory commitment and said any firmer commitment must also be agreed by local authorities, the wider public sector and the third sector.

He insisted public bodies already had the certainty required to pass on three-year deals to charities.

Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown said: "Single-year funding is just not an effective way to conduct business. It means far too much time is spent on the application process and it diverts key staff from the critical job of delivering for the most vulnerable."

Mr Swinney said: "Mr Brown fairly reflects the fact that the issue is of the preference for three-year funding, it's not mandatory"

Labour finance spokesman Ken Macintosh said: "We need to stop treating the third sector as an adendum to state provision and start thinking of it as an equal partner. Multi-year funding must be an integral part of the approach."