Duncan Thorp analyses the priorities of the new Scottish Government, and what impact they will have for social enterprises
Last week the First Minister published the new Priorities of Government statement that forms the basis of their plans for the first 100 days.
The SNP are now also in formal talks with the Scottish Greens, to see if agreement can be reached about joint working for the new parliamentary term.
It’s also notable that the policy areas of interest to social enterprise i.e. third sector and social economy, community wealth building and the wellbeing economy are now spread across different ministerial remits.
We noted with interest that “social entrepreneurship” is now in the Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise remit, alongside “employee-owned businesses”. This is something we’ll be navigating over the coming weeks.
The statement for the first 100 days is an interesting read for social entrepreneurs. There were a number of big policy items that are of relevance and interest to social enterprises plus lots more that will impact social enterprise service users. Much of the detail of these policy pledges is yet to be revealed.
For those working in or with the care sector one of the biggest announcements was the beginning of a consultation to establish a “National Care Service”, hailed by the First Minister as “the most important public sector innovation” since the foundation of the NHS. It will oversee the care sector and aim to raise standards, pay and conditions.
The government jobs scheme, the Young Person’s Guarantee, aims to ensure that every young person has the opportunity of education, training or work and this programme will continue to be developed. There are also plans for a “Green Jobs Academy”.
There was a pledge for “longer term work” to develop a minimum income guarantee. With much policy talk about Universal Basic Income (UBI) or Citizens’ Income-type scheme this may be an attempt to implement such a scheme, after a number of pilots have already taken place In Scotland and in other countries.
Legislation will be brought forward to support Community Wealth Building and to ensure more local procurement. Again this builds on CWB pilot projects and an increased awareness of the potential of this approach. Many social enterprises will be interested in how they and their service users can benefit from this local, innovative regeneration approach.
A Scotland Loves Local campaign will be launched to encourage more support for local businesses post-lockdown. We’ll be interested to see how this can link in with projects such as our own Buy Social initiative, that’s part of the current Social Enterprise Action Plan.
There’s now an explicit focus on the wellbeing economy as a top priority and there will be the foundation of a new Council for Economic Transformation plus a further £1 billion for the Scottish National Investment Bank. Building a new economy is what social enterprise is all about and we’re very keen to engage with the new Council.
The continued promotion of the broad fair work agenda, such as the real Living Wage has also been announced, including fair work through public sector procurement. Women entrepreneurs, of which there are many leading social enterprises, will benefit with a £50 million funding for a Women’s Business Centre. In addition there’s an aim to boost the rural economy through, for example, a Rural Entrepreneur Fund.
As a continuation of the new economy and fair work themes the government has committed to help companies pilot a four day working week. This will explore whether the workplace changes caused by the pandemic lockdown are “for the long term” and whether this change might boost both wellbeing and productivity.
Finally, one of the commitments that was announced pre-election was to begin the process of taking Scotrail into public ownership. We believe that there are many opportunities here not only to build a more ethical supply chain and more opportunities for social enterprises but also to see if a social enterprise model itself could be the future for our rail service in Scotland.