Speech by John Swinney to Senscot AGM

Senscot AGM:
27 June 2007

speech by
John Swinney
Minister for Finance and Sustainable Growth

I am delighted to be here today and would like to thank Senscot for inviting me to speak to you.  An AGM is an excellent opportunity for members to come together, take stock and do a bit of networking.  Building networks is what Senscot is all about.  

Your AGM gives me an opportunity to introduce myself and to outline my plans for social enterprise and the wider community agenda.

The new Scottish Government is committed to 5 strategic priorities
o wealthier and fairer Scotland,
o healthier Scotland,
o safer and stronger Scotland,
o smarter Scotland and
o a greener Scotland. 

Social enterprise can make a real contribution to all of these areas.  We are committed to helping the sector reach its potential in Scotland.

Social enterprises have demonstrated that they can work in many sectors of the Scottish economy, often as the best solution in areas where there is market failure.  For example providing employment opportunities in deprived areas or to disadvantaged people or providing transportation in rural areas.  The list of things social enterprise does or importantly could do is almost endless.

Social enterprises often deliver services that are irreplaceable, working with marginalised groups where commercial business wouldn’t go. 

We value the sector’s role not just because it provides services rooted in the community but because social enterprises come up with new innovative solutions that work.  It is this mix of business skills with the provision of social benefit that makes social enterprise so special. 

I therefore have an interest in helping to develop social enterprises as businesses so that they can realise their potential as deliverers of these services as well as economic drivers.

There are many areas where social enterprises are established providers of services.  In these areas the sector is at its best when it is allowed to be responsive and innovative and have a real role to play in public service reform. 

Our support for social enterprise

The new Scottish Government is committed to building a strong social enterprise sector in Scotland.

Our support for social enterprise will be in two ways.  Firstly we will update the social enterprise strategy in 2008.  We believe that the current version of the strategy we inherited was a good foundation and we will be implementing this in 07/08 together with the £1.5m worth of actions in the strategy.

We want to do more though.  Following the spending review we will look to create a three year action plan to help social enterprises reach their potential as deliverers of the services that we need to make Scotland smarter, stronger, fairer, wealthier and greener.

Secondly we are committed to investing in social enterprise through a Scottish Investment Fund.   We are also currently reviewing the £18m Futurebuilders Scotland programme and will look at whether a successor programme to that should be part of the spending review.

We realise that we don’t know all the answers yet.  We will therefore want to maintain a close dialogue with yourselves and others in the social enterprise world.  I will expect my officials to maintain their close links with you.

Community engagement

Our new Government will invest in communities in a more creative way, but also in a way that provides the right support and I talked earlier about social enterprise delivering services in the community.

As a Government we are also interested in exploring how Scotland’s people can be given more control over their own lives.  We want to support people to have a real stake in the future of their communities.  The detail of this agenda is emerging, and as we develop our thinking we will be talking with people like you to make sure we put in place support that will make a lasting difference.

I am particularly interested to see the emergence of the Local People Leading campaign.  I know that Senscot has been involved in its development.  We want to work with the campaign to explore key issues that will make a difference in empowering communities, for example community ownership of assets, the development of local social enterprise and local service delivery.

• We know that this can be a challenging agenda – and we know that some of you will think you have heard it all before.  But we are committed to making a real difference here – a difference through strong political leadership; through working with you and across the public sector to build on what works; and through putting in place appropriate resources and support.

Communities Scotland

Many of you will be thinking of the manifesto commitment on examining our Government agencies and what this will mean for future support to the sector? 

Last week (21 June), Stewart Maxwell the Minister for Communities and Sport announced that Ministers wished to consider in more detail what capacity they need to deliver their housing and regeneration policies.  We also want to consider further how best to implement their more general objective of simplifying the public sector landscape, of which Communities Scotland is one element.  Conclusions from this exercise should emerge over the coming months.  In the meantime Ministers approved a new set of targets for Communities Scotland to deliver during 07/08.

However, two immediate changes to the agency are that the Learning Connections function will move to the new Directorate General for Education and the Social Economy Unit will move to DG for Economy becoming part of the Third Sector Team in Public Service Reform Directorate. 

The formation of a new Third Sector Team within the Public Service Reform Directorate is a great opportunity to bring together policy interests across the spectrum of third sector, social economy and social enterprise.  This will allow national policy responsibility to be integrated and streamlined.  In particular the remits of the existing Third Sector Team and the SEU were converging considerably in areas related to public service reform and public sector procurement and in the use of the social enterprise business model as a way of ensuring the financial sustainability of the third sector.  This new team will really be able to drive forward the national agenda on social enterprise and the third sector. 

Concluding remarks

I have seen what social enterprises can do.  I am impressed with their drive, their entrepreneurship and their ability to address social and environmental problems.

I am impressed with the dynamism and the innovation demonstrated by social entrepreneurs in Scotland.  Earlier this week I had the privilege of opening the McSence Contact, Conference and Training Centre. 

That state of the art building demonstrated much of what is good about social enterprise.

McSence has worked hard over the years to create long term sustainable employment opportunities and training for local people; fostering an entrepreneurial spirit of business enterprise for the well being of the community.

We currently have a one year strategy for social enterprise in Scotland.  We are committed to building on this and to provide support that the sector needs to meet its full potential.

A lot will depend on social enterprises themselves – on you to ensure that social enterprises are run effectively, are providing high quality services and playing their part in a Scotland that is wealthier, healthier, safer, smarter and greener.

I am also aware of the scale of the challenge ahead.  However, the potential of social enterprise is such that I am confident that we can see a great increase in the amount of services delivered by social enterprises and the amount of products sold by the sector.

The challenge for the Scottish Government is to create the environment in which social entrepreneurs and their enterprises will thrive.  The social enterprise strategy is a great step towards making this happen.

It is the follow through that is important.  There is much more that we can do to ensure social enterprise reaches its full potential in Scotland and we want to work with you to achieve this.

I look forward to working with Scotland’s social entrepreneurs over the next few years to make this happen and to achieve this goal.