THE Scottish Government is seeking inspiration from Norway as it marks the 200th anniversary of its independence from Denmark with praise for its approach to social enterprise and childcare.
Finance Secretary John Swinney will visit Oslo this week for a conference on social enterprises, which aim to generate profit for human and environmental benefit rather than shareholders.
The visit coincides with the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution, when it gained independence from Denmark, and comes seven months ahead of Scotland’s own independence referendum.
Mr Swinney said childcare, a key area for reform in his independence plans, is amongst the many areas that Scottish ministers look to Norway for inspiration.
He will speak at the Ferd conference on social entrepreneurship in Oslo on Thursday.
Speaking ahead of the conference, Mr Swinney said: “Scotland has been recognised as the best place in the world to start a social enterprise and there is increasing international interest in what some are calling the ‘Scottish Model’.
“We believe that an enterprising third sector is a vital partner in our economy, in civic society and in the creation of a fairer and more inclusive Scotland.
“That is why we have invested heavily to help the sector develop but it’s not just about money, it’s about support at every level.
“This conference is an excellent opportunity to share our experience of building a strong social enterprise sector with our friends in Norway.
“We look to the Nordic model in many areas, such as their progressive approach to childcare, and I’m delighted to continue that long history of collaboration.”
He added: “2014 is an important year for both our countries with our referendum on independence and Norway marking its 200th anniversary of their constitution, when it gained its independence from Denmark.
“We have achieved a lot with the powers we have, but with the powers that independence would give us over welfare, taxation and the economy we can do even more to support the third sector and promote its growth, effectiveness and sustainability for years to come.”
Karin Lindgard, deputy director of Husbanken East which is part of the state housing bank, said: “When Husbanken visited Edinburgh in September 2013 to learn more about the social enterprise environment in Scotland, we greatly appreciated the willingness everyone showed to share their knowledge.
“We believe that it is possible for us to leapfrog forward from our current position in Norway, and are excited to think this might be possible through finding future collaborative projects through which we can further develop our competence regarding the potential of social enterprise in the housing sector.”
Gerry Higgins, CEO of Community Enterprise in Scotland, said: “The Finance Secretary has taken a particular interest in the sector and has been recognised nationally and internationally for the leadership and drive provided to the programme of support for the sector.”