Anna Kucinska
30 June 2014

Scotland’s comprehensive social enterprise strategy

SEN’s peer review held in Scotland on 16-17 June 2014 kicked off with an inspiring talk by Yvonne Strachan, the Scottish government’s policy lead on social enterprise and the third sector.

It’s an interesting time to be in Scotland which in September is holding a referendum on becoming independent from the UK. Since devolution in 1999 and with the Scottish National Party leading the government since 2007, Scotland has had a strong policy of support for social enterprises. This was, in the words of peer review expert Roger Spear, a refreshing change, given the death of the ‘Big Society’ (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil...) south of the border.

Scotland’s policy is built on a single national purpose, “creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth”, and a performance framework based on 16 national outcomes on well-being.

During the EQUAL programme (2002-2008) social enterprises got together and lobbied and in 2007 a holistic programme of support was launched, the Enterprising Third Sector Action Plan <http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/15300/Actionplan>. This gave the sector increased recognition and developed its role in improving outcomes for every individual, reforming public services, implementing austerity, improving prevention and empowering communities.

The support framework (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/15300/SocialEnterprise) is developed through dialogue and includes:

  • developing leadership

  • opening markets – the Procurement Reform Act (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/Procurement/policy/Procurem...), including community benefit clauses and work to help local authorities and social enterprise to understand one another

  • access to finance such as the €40m Social Investment Fund and the €7.5m Enterprise Ready Fund

  • business support: on top of the Business Gateway (http://www.bgateway.com/), which serves all businesses, there is also a specific social enterprise programme delivered by a third sector consortium

  • infrastructure such as Senscot, Social Firms Scotland and the Academy

  • intra-governmental alignment

  • 22 thematic and local networks

  • international work – Scotland hosted the inaugural Social Enterprise World Forum in 2008.

ESF 2014-20

In 2014-2020 it wants to use the ESF to achieve long-term strategic change and the Scottish chapter of the UK partnership agreement has three objectives: growth, low carbon and local development and social inclusion. The third sector is represented on the partnership agreement monitoring committee and each operational programme has a Strategic Delivery Partnership. A controversial feature that interested some managing authorities is that it is handled centrally by the Scottish government which does all the reporting to the EU centrally, not the individual projects. It reports the aggregated results against the agreed strategic outcomes, freeing the delivery partners to get on with the job.

There is no big move to spin out public services: one-third of health and social care is already delivered by social enterprises and Scotland values its public sector. Some issues that cause frustration in the sector are:

  • managing the relationship between cooperation and competition – social enterprise cannot always find partners, only competitors

  • using unit cost as the criterion in procurement decisions – it is proving hard to implement measures of social value

  • some local authorities are less enthusiastic in working with social enterprises.

Toby Johnson

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