Sir Tom Hunter writes for The Herald

Sir Tom Hunter writes for The Herald
The Herald, by Sir Tom Hunter

Last week, as I drove to Doon Academy in Dalmellington to judge the East Ayrshire schools business plan competition, I was struck by, one, the beautiful countryside and, secondly, by the remnants of the mining industry – a metaphor for our situation in Scotland.


We are gradually unshackling ourselves from the tyranny of dependency delivered by nationalised industries like coal and steel, to becoming a self-sustaining nation and our young people are fundamental to that cause.


But what struck me more was this – communities reinvent themselves not governments, local authorities or do-gooding philanthropists; all they need to do so is a hand up not a hand out.


That’s why I think we need a seismic shift in our direction of travel and our willingness to take risk – if we do what we have always done we will get what we have always got.


I think we need to accelerate the growth of social business – a business that is solely focussed on profit, but those profits are then invested for the common good.


Take Social Bite, delivering superb food, employing 20 per cent former homeless people and giving back all day every day. Do they get incentives? Barring Rates Relief, no, they just get on with it, yet how much are they saving the taxpayer by offering a leg up and out of homelessness?


Gareth Wood yesterday joined that charge with his Boozy Cow concept – fantastic. And that I believe is the trick – offering those most in need a leg up, not a begging bowl.


Centrestage does just that and are busily turning the community of Ardeer around by offering support, opportunity and advice but with a core sense of dignity. The community is leading, not the charity and I think that’s an incredibly powerful force for change; enable local empowerment to deliver community change.


To a degree that’s why last week my philanthropy stepped in to take over a phenomenal concept – The Kiltwalk. At its core it offered walkers the opportunity to walk for whatever charity they chose, encouraging if you will that local empowerment. Its a huge opportunity and one we intend to deliver exceptional results from in 2016.


True The Kiltwalk has had its troubles but those were in real terms driven by an over-zealous commitment to raise more money for Scotland’s children’s charities. Over-expansion, increased overhead and confusion around fundraising and resultant negative media served to damage the charity. But let’s not forget in three years they raised £ 4.7 million for charity – that is no mean feat in today’s market.


Sadly today we had to take painful decisions; hard, bitter but realistic to secure a bright future where every penny raised will go straight to Scotland’s children’s charities, doubling Kiltwalk’s return to charities.


But with that bit of painful surgery The Kiltwalk will be back next year bigger, better and more effective. Importantly, we will also make the charity a model of transparency – if you do something for charity you want to know precisely how that has impacted; we will fix that.


To drive a more efficient, effective and transparent Kiltwalk I’m delighted two very senior figures in business have joined the board – Mark Harvey, partner in EY, and Sean Tracey, former CEO of Powerleague.


We all need to get behind Kiltwalk just as last week we witnessed the public, private and third sectors get behind Scottish Edge ( a fund supported by the Scottish Government, RBS and The Hunter Foundation to support high growth start-ups – the lifeblood of our economy.


It was an inspirational event where all shared a vision of a vibrant, job creating Scotland where the dots joined up seamlessly. We need that vision replicated in the third sector where solutions based activity should rule.


It is time we, as a bold and proud nation, started far more to focus on solutions not sticking plasters to our societal problems. A few weeks ago I visited Who Cares? Scotland, an exceptional charity campaigning for positive outcomes for young people who are looked after and accommodated.


For this group of people, despite our ability to send people into space, the dial has not moved – if you belong to that group you are twenty times more likely to be dead by the age of 25 than your fellow young people. Cost to the taxpayer in Scotland: £2.1 billion I understand – really? Simply abhorrent and totally and utterly unacceptable; but we can fix it with a will and a determination.


Scotland can and will lead a renaissance in economic and social terms. Let’s make sure we all play our part in that. Hand up not a hand out; end of story.