The rise of social enterprises in Scotland

Social Bite's store in Edinburgh
Social Bite's store in Edinburgh
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Scotland’s social enterprises employ more than 112,000 people, according to new research which highlights the importance of the growing sector to the economy.

Today’s report reveals that there are some 5,000 businesses classed as social enterprises north of the Border, with more than 200 being formed each year.

Highlands and Islands has 22 per cent of all social enterprises, while Edinburgh and Glasgow account for 26 per cent of them.

The research, which was commissioned by a range of public and social enterprise organisations, also found that 68 per cent of social enterprises pay at least the recognised living wage.

As well as providing some 112,400 jobs, Scotland’s social enterprises have a combined traded income of £1.15 billion and net collective assets of £3.86bn.

Rachael McCormack of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, speaking on behalf of the project steering group, said: “This excellent report confirms the scale and vital contribution of social enterprise to society and to the economy in the Highlands and Islands and to Scotland as a whole.

“Social enterprise is a business model that helps tackle social issues, promote equality and achieve sustainable economic growth.

“These are the reasons that we attach so much importance to social enterprise and are working with social entrepreneurs to strengthen leadership, innovation and the business dimension of their enterprises. Working together in this way will help achieve our shared ambition to grow the social enterprise community year on year.”

Jonathan Coburn, director, Social Value Lab, the organisation commissioned to carry out the research, added: “This has been an enormously challenging and significant piece of work, one that at last provides a definitive picture of the scale, reach and economic significance of social enterprise activity in Scotland.

“It tells the story of an important and diverse group of ethical, community-led and democratic enterprises that have grown up largely beneath the radar, but which now touch on the lives of people in almost every urban and rural community in the country.”

Among Scotland’s best-known social enterprises are The Big Issue, sandwich shop chain Social Bite, Capital Credit Union and the Homeless World Cup.