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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.

Revealed: Scots social enterprise leads the world

This news post is about 6 years old

​First ever social enterprise survey show scope and impact of sector in Scotland

A unique census has revealed Scotland’s social enterprise sector is world leading, contributing £1.15 billion to the economy and has become vital in tackling social issues.

Results of Scotland’s first ever survey of the shape, size and impact of social enterprise reveals that business if burgeoning with over 5,200 social firms providing 112,000 jobs with assets worth some £3.86bn.

The research was commissioned by a range of public and third sector groups, confirming the nation as world-leading in nurturing social enterprise and recognises the approach as a fairer and more inclusive way of doing business.

It shows that areas such as childcare, credit unions and housing are providing not just vital services but viable alternatives to private or statutory organisations which people are eager to use because they believe in the sector’s values.

A quarter of all social enterprise formed less than five years ago while 226 new firms are created each year in Scotland.

Overall the sector is dominated by small-to-medium sized organisations – 60% have a turnover less than £100,000 while one third operate with a turnover less than £25,000.

In terms of geography, Scotland’s two biggest cities – Glasgow and Edinburgh – are the locations for a quarter of all the firms in the country.

However, belying the sector’s ethos of creating services where there is most need, 23% of social firms are located in Highland and Islands region – an impressive figure considering just 9% of the population live in this area.

Key findings

  • Over 5,000 social enterprises in Scotland
  • Over 200 new social enterprises formed each year
  • Highlands and Islands has 22% of all socialenterprises
  • Edinburgh and Glasgow account for 26% of allsocial enterprises
  • 60% of social enterprises have a woman as theirmost senior employee

  • 68% of social enterprises pay at least therecognised Living Wage

  • Provides over 112,400 jobs

  • £1.15bn in combined traded income
  • Net collective assets £3.86bn

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

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

“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 of Social Value Lab, the organisation commissioned to carry out the research, said: “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.

"The research shows that it is possible to operate in a way that is both good for business and good for Scottish society.”

Alex Neil MSP, cabinet secretary for social justice, communities and pensioners' rights, said: "Social enterprises are making a real difference to the lives of people in our communities and have a major role to play in our drive for social justice.

"This census shows they are embracing the principles of fairness and equality with more than two thirds of social enterprises paying at least the living wage and with women taking on senior positions in 60% of these organisations.

"We look forward to working with the sector in the period ahead."



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