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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

How Scotland's social enterprises help power the country's economy


The annual income of social enterprises in the country is £4.8bn according to latest census

Scotland’s social enterprises have proven themselves to be economic powerhouses, contributing more than £2.63 billion to the country’s economy.

The latest Social Enterprise in Scotland census shows that the sector has continued to grow despite the joint challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit.

Taking in data from 2021, it shows that the 6,047 social enterprises operating in Scotland employed nearly 90,000 full-time employees and added over £2.63bn to the Scottish economy, a 14% increase from 2019.

The findings cement Scotland’s reputation as a world-leading nation in the support and development of social enterprise.

 Key highlights from the census include:

•             6,047 social enterprises operating in Scotland in 2021,

•             71% of social enterprises are led by women,

•             33% of social enterprises are located in rural Scotland,

•             85% of social enterprises paying at least the living wage to all employees,

•             The annual income of social enterprises in the country is £4.8bn

•             and the net worth of Scotland’s social enterprises is £7bn.

The 2021 Social Enterprise in Scotland Census is the fourth account of national social enterprise activity, following similar studies undertaken in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Each census has given an insight into the scale, reach and contribution of social enterprise to Scotland’s communities and economy.

Chris Martin, chief executive of Social Enterprise Scotland said: “The census clearly demonstrates that the sector remains strong, despite the challenges of the pandemic. The data in the report contains a broadly positive picture, with social enterprises making a significant contribution to the Scottish economy (up from £2.3bn to £2.63bn since 2019) and remaining resilient in the face of challenges.

“We continue to see core metrics heading in the right direction, be that social enterprises who pay the Real Living Wage (up from 75% to 85% since 2019) or the net worth of the social enterprise sector (which has risen to £7bn from £6.1bn in 2019).”

He added: “Social enterprises adapted well to service delivery challenges and changes in service demands over the period of the report, but they didn’t change their overall approach, acting the way they have always done, driven by values and a desire to do what is best in the interests of people and the planet. 

“Social enterprises continued to employ and retain staff, paid the Real Living Wage and took steps to reduce their carbon emissions. This is not a one-off but a trend that we have charted through each census from 2015 to show that social enterprise really can be the business model of choice.”

Read the census report here.



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