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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.

Future generations and a long term view for social enterprise 


A new commissioner could benefit everyone in Scotland, now and in the future

Scottish elections generally take place every five years and are, of course, an essential element of our political system.  

This means that politics is often about short term, immediate priorities, not longer-term considerations.

However, there are potential solutions to help achieve a longer-term approach to policy and to Scotland’s development. 

This includes the proposal for a Future Generations Commissioner, building on the work of Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF) and learning from the existing commissioner in Wales

Wales has had a commissioner since the introduction of the 2015 Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act. 

Derek Walker, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales and former chief executive of Cwmpas (the Wales Co-operative Centre), says: “My role as Future Generations Commissioner is to advocate for the interests of those not yet born and to support our public services to take a long-term approach.  

“Experience tells me people are fed up with short-term sticking plaster solutions and want our decision makers to look beyond the next election.  

“As an independent commissioner, I have a responsibility to advise and monitor public sector organisations in Wales to act on those big, long-term issues of our time, such as climate change, the nature emergency and population health. 

“I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government is looking to introduce a similar role and that soon I might be joined by another independent commissioner for future generations.” 

The idea of a commissioner for Scotland was originally proposed by Sarah Boyack MSP and the proposal has now been taken up by the Scottish Government. 

If The Scottish Parliament supports it, then a bill would see the introduction of a Future Generations Commissioner for Scotland and related reforms.  

The new office would be tasked with putting wellbeing at the centre of big decisions, by introducing longer term thinking and speaking up for the people who come next.  

It would aim to ensure that Scotland is a country that takes wellbeing and sustainable development seriously, both now and for future generations.  

Not only is this longer-term approach beneficial to the wellbeing of future generations but it’s also likely to bring a significant reduction in future financial, social and environmental costs. 

This could shift spending to policy interventions that reduce demand on public services and create better outcomes for people and planet. 

It could also be good news for investors, including social investors, who often prefer a stable, long-term approach.

Options for Scotland include expanding the remit of an existing office, such as Scotland’s Human Rights Commissioner, who is independent and directly accountable to parliament instead of government, being mindful of the costs of another public body. 

We recently asked our member social enterprises to get in contact for the opportunity to get their voices heard and take part in a government consultation webinar and we’ll continue to empower social enterprises to influence this agenda. 

Social entrepreneurs - while dealing with the daily, immediate challenges within their local communities and in running an enterprise - are all about solutions to difficult, long term social challenges. 

This broader and preventative approach is essential if we are to having thriving communities and resilient local economies. 

The thinking behind this idea will resonate with many social entrepreneurs and fits alongside the wellbeing economy approach that Social Enterprise Scotland and other organisations support.  

Social enterprises across Scotland are already working hard to deliver a wellbeing economy, right at the heart of their local communities, driving community-led regeneration and development in both urban and rural Scotland.  

The new policy proposal could benefit everyone in Scotland, now and in the future, and could gain cross-party support. 

Particularly in the era of the climate emergency, inequalities and huge economic challenges, long term thinking has never been more important.   

Duncan Thorp is policy and public affairs manager, for Social Enterprise Scotland.



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