Duncan Thorp: Improving government policies for ‘good of everyone’

The new parliament holds many, varied opportunities. Picture: Scottish Government

The new parliament holds many, varied opportunities. Picture: Scottish Government

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THEMES include promoting social awareness, writes Duncan Thorp

For the past few weeks Social Enterprise Scotland has been promoting our 2016 election manifesto “For the Good of Everyone” to election candidates, political parties and many other audiences.

In addition our election event in Edinburgh saw candidates from the main parties speak about their commitment and support for our hard-working and creative social enterprise businesses. It was an opportunity for social enterprises and their supporters to ask questions and consider how they might influence what happens next in the new parliament.

As the national membership body for social enterprises, Social Enterprise Scotland asks our members what they want and need and seeks to positively influence national and local policy-making. We exist to promote and raise the profile of Scottish social enterprises and the social enterprise way of doing business.

The manifesto was a result of these open consultations with social enterprises, and focused on key policies that we’ll campaign on for the next five years, as we seek to change and improve the policies of The Scottish Government and parliament and public bodies.

The manifesto has a number of broad themes. “Building mass public awareness” is about promoting social enterprise across Scotland, which is essential to boost the numbers of social enterprises and create more ethical options for consumers.

“Transforming public services” is about social enterprises offering positive solutions to better, more inclusive and more responsive person-centred public services.

In addition we have a theme of “Driving business support forward”, to ensure that all types of business support include specific and effective social enterprise knowledge and expertise.

Boosting social investment and funding is crucial to social enterprise growth. Building social investment and innovative finance models, plus protecting and opening up funding, is a key ask.

We also believe that the best solutions are made locally. “Local solutions as standard” is about empowering local people, community groups and local social enterprises across Scotland at every opportunity, devolving power downwards to benefit every neighbourhood.

Scotland has had a constructive and positive national policy environment for social enterprise development and we genuinely appreciate the cross-party political support for social enterprises. We believe that this will continue in 2016 and beyond.

The new parliament holds many, varied opportunities. We have a diverse mix of views and experiences across the different parties, with a sizeable number of completely new MSPs for us to inform about social enterprise, many MSPs with a social enterprise, private business or charity background and strong, key manifesto pledges from all parties.

The Scottish Conservative election manifesto said: “We have long supported social enterprises, which are some of the best examples of how entrepreneurship can deliver improved social and community outcomes - housing associations and credit unions being for example being an integral part of Scotland’s communities. We will look to support social enterprises through increased awareness and publicity.”

There were also social enterprise pledges from the Scottish Greens: “We can do business differently, supporting small businesses, social enterprises and employee-owned ventures to flourish. And we can build an economy for people, not growth at any cost. Green MSPs will support social enterprises, cooperatives and employee-owned businesses to be at the heart of the economy. Greens will support these business models that challenge the status quo, promote equality and deliver more for Scotland.”

In their manifesto Scottish Labour stated that: “We will always support third sector organisations and social enterprises because when government and the voluntary sector work together we can tackle disadvantage together. We will invest in Co-operative Development Scotland and encourage the development of co-operatives.”

In addition the Scottish Liberal Democrats were aligned with all the other Holyrood parties in committing themselves to social enterprise development: “We support the growth of social enterprises in Scotland, to promote the innovation they can bring, and the wide group of people they draw into the productive economy.”

Our focus is of course on influencing and continuing to build a positive and constructive relationship with SNP Ministers and MSPs, as they confirm their role as the party of government. Their own manifesto made similarly strong commitments:

“It is vital that Scotland strikes the right balance in the nature and character of business structures. Scotland is now a world leader in social enterprise and the social economy. Substantial growth is being seen in the sector in the scale and range of organisations and it forms an increasingly important part of our economy.

“We are already investing in the development of social enterprises and we will strengthen the support available as part of a ten-year social enterprise strategy. We have made significant investment in and promoted the role of the third sector, social enterprises and volunteers. .”

With many supportive voices in The Scottish Parliament and a government committed to social enterprise development, we look forward to working constructively to find common ground across party boundaries. We’ll work for the next five years to ensure that social enterprises of every kind, in every corner of Scotland, are supported and promoted and placed centre stage, as part of a strong vision to improve the lives of everyone.

• Duncan Thorp, Policy and Communications Officer, Social Enterprise Scotland

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