Duncan Thorp looks ahead to a year of political change - and what it could mean for social enterprises
The UK general election is fast approaching...
While our policy focus in social enterprise is generally centred around the Scottish Government and parliament and local authorities, many relevant powers are still reserved to Westminster.
Broadly speaking social enterprise and third sector support and development is the responsibility of devolved authorities.
However, many of the reserved policy areas include big items that directly affect our daily lives in Scotland, including the work of social entrepreneurs. Notably for social enterprises this includes:
- the economy and currency,
- some areas of taxation,
- company and employment law,
- trade and industry,
- some social security benefits,
- consumer protection,
- most aspects of energy
- and most equalities law.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are distinct differences between the Scottish and UK political systems and culture.
Unlike Scottish general elections, Westminster uses the old first past the post voting system, so we know it’s likely to be either the current ruling Conservative Party or the Labour Party that will have a majority (or at least be the biggest party next time, perhaps supported by others).
Opinion polls are indicating a change in government, which may mean a change in the direction of policy in many of those reserved areas, affecting social enterprises in every part of urban and rural Scotland.
We’re also aware that the two biggest parties are frequently talking about traditional measures of the economy like GDP and growth, whereas Scotland has a focus on the wellbeing economy and areas like economic transformation and community wealth building.
We can certainly evidence the powerful economic contribution of Scottish social enterprises. According to the most recent Social Enterprise Census report, social enterprises continue to be a valuable and increasingly important asset to Scotland’s economy.
This contribution, known as Gross Value Added (GVA) was £2.63 billion in around 2021, up from £2.4bn in 2017. It’s this type of figure that really brings home the economic value.
In addition, we have other strong financial indicators, with the total net worth of social enterprises at £7bn, up from £3.9bn in 2015.
There were almost 90,000 full time equivalent jobs provided by social enterprises in 2021, up from just over 81,000 in 2017.
This all demonstrates the huge economic potential of social enterprise to the next UK government.
As part of our engagement in the UK election we’re a partner in the Future Economy Alliance, a broad, inclusive and innovative initiative that seeks to lobby UK political parties before, during and after the vote. Do sign up to get news updates.
This pioneering partnership brings together social enterprises, co-operatives, mutuals, employee-owned businesses, social investors, community-led organisations, fundraisers and third sector experts, united in the vision of an economy where society profits.
We’re seeking to go beyond business as usual and we’re pleased to be working alongside key partners like Social Enterprise UK, Cwmpas, the Employee Ownership Association, Cooperatives UK and the Fair Tax Foundation, to campaign for an economy where everyone receives their fair share of economic prosperity.
We look forward to getting the voices of Scottish social enterprises heard, as we build this alliance for genuine change in UK social enterprise and economic policy.
Duncan Thorp is policy and public affairs manager at Social Enterprise Scotland.