The way ahead in Scotland

The way ahead in Scotland
Social Enterprise Live

John Swinney, cabinet secretary for finance and sustainable growth in Scotland, gives Social Enterprise readers an insight into his government’s plans for the future

The Scottish government recognises the valuable contribution social enterprises make to supporting a strong and sustained economic recovery, and the important role they play in delivering some of Scotland’s key services.

In the fields of employability, social care, recycling and renewable energy, social enterprises are leading the way in providing innovative solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing Scotland today.

The Scottish government is committed to doing all we can to enable the third sector to develop and evolve to deliver its full potential. This is underlined in our budget for this year, which increases the core third sector budget by 16 per cent in 2011-12 to £24m, and provides an additional £3m for the Scottish Investment Fund.

Our Enterprising Third Sector Action Plan (2008-11) has established the support structure, including business advice and training to help the third sector bid effectively for public sector contracts, that has allowed many organisations to grow in recent challenging economic times.

We’ve provided considerable direct investment in the sector over the last three years. The Scottish Investment Fund – providing a mix of grants and loans – has funded 40 of Scotland’s leading social enterprises, including Kibble Education and Care, Recycle Fife and Cornerstone Community Care. Our Third Sector Enterprise Fund has supported 186 third sector organisations to develop innovative ways to improve their performance, to develop their products and services, and ultimately to deliver better outcomes for their clients and customers. And through the Social Entrepreneurs Fund, we’ve invested in the next generation of social enterprises including the multi award-winning Glitter Beach.

This support has been well-received by Scotland’s social enterprise sector. At the ‘Realising Potential – next steps for social enterprise in Scotland’ conference, held in September, it was gratifying to hear from the stage that Scotland has a world-leading social enterprise strategy.

New contracts
We are currently tendering for a new contract to provide business support to the sector and will shortly be putting out to tender a contract to work with public bodies to help them understand how they can maximise social benefit through, for example, use of Community Benefit clauses.

We will also continue our work developing Scotland’s 32 local third sector interfaces. Each plays a key role in representing the third sector in their area and will be a key building block for ensuring that social enterprises are able to play a full role in the design and delivery of services in Scotland.

We do look with interest at what is happening elsewhere. As social enterprise policy is devolved, the impact of May’s UK parliamentary election has not been huge in Scotland, but there are elements of the Big Society that resonate here. We are keen that people in Scotland feel closer to the services that are delivered for them and that users and their representatives have an input to service design. Our work around public-social partnerships builds on this – I’m looking forward to the public and third sectors working much more closely together in future. Forthcoming plans, including the £70 million Change Fund for social care services, will help this to happen.

We look with interest at developments like Social Impact Bonds. There is real benefit in linking funding to results and I’m keen that we look at as many different ways of attracting investment into the sector as possible.

The Scottish government is committed to enhancing the role of social enterprises in service delivery. Established organisations such as the Wise Group have demonstrated that they can deliver very large contracts. We are also attracting new social enterprises to Scotland. I was very honoured to be at the launch of Specialisterne in Glasgow in August – an incredible organisation that provides real work experience for autistic people. The Scottish government invested in Specialisterne through the Scottish Investment Fund.

We are determined to build on the strong foundations we have put in place to create an environment in which social enterprise can thrive.

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