Wallace backs Perry on Scottish Enterprise’s social targets
By Douglas Fraser,
Scottish Enterprise is set to be stripped of some of its social justice targets in reforms that will allow it to focus on training for those closest to the job market.
Ministers are understood to back the line taken by Jack Perry, the new chief executive of the economic development agency, who called for it to aim at businesses and growth rather than meeting social policy objectives.
“There’s a view that a change of focus is necessary,” said an Executive source. “That will be bound up with the review of the Smart Successful Scotland strategy which is now taking place.”
The current remit of Scottish Enterprise (SE) includes helping recovering drug addicts into stable employment. That has become the scheme used most often to illustrate the difficulties the agency faces in bridging wide-ranging targets.
One proposal being worked up by Scottish Executive officials is that the social inclusion role is removed from SE at national level, and given over to local enterprise agencies, where some disagree with Perry and would prefer to continue the social justice role.
A major shift in funding is also being considered by ministers, which would move responsibility and money from Jim Wallace’s enterprise department into the Communities Scotland organisation.
“Jim Wallace has a good deal of sympathy with what Jack Perry has been saying, but the minister has yet to be convinced that there should be a clear break,” said one of those close to him. “There is still the question of what role the network will continue to have in the delivery of skills.”
The role of Highlands and Islands Enterprise is unlikely to change. Along with its predecessor development board, it has long had a social role within economic development, and outgoing chairman Jim Hunter argued recently that it has lessons for community and enterprise policy which could be applied in the central belt.
However, Perry recently claimed that SE “needs to return to a sharper focus on pure economic development … government has a duty to care for and support and, where possible, develop this latter group [the older, less skilled, and illiterate] but I don’t believe this should be the primary responsibility of an economic development agency.”
Perry also said: “At present we are responsible for a range of activities, from the rehabilitation of drug addicts to regeneration of the Clyde waterfront. Our purpose has become opaque and consequently our message confused.”