Third sector organisations deliver a range of public services for government. They are valued and trusted by commissioners, clients and wider society because of their independence. However, the extent to which the third sector is independent is questioned. Drawing on qualitative longitudinal research with third sector organisations in Scotland, this article explores how third sector organisations delivering public services manage the demands of changing funding structures and relationships with government, and the implications for their independence. It explores how organisations understand and negotiate the tension between their independence and missiondriven social action, and delivering commissioned and contracted public services. In doing so, it highlights the challenges to independence in a dynamically changing political, policy and financial climate, as well as opportunities for organisations to emphasise their distinctive contribution to public service delivery.