Whenever government policy proposals are published we can usually predict the response from the media, politicians and civic society organisations.
Reactions range from firm opposition, to neutral apathy to “we welcome this BUT...”. Certainly “delighted” is relatively rare.
It’s fair to say that many people in social enterprise and the third sector, understandably, fall into the “we welcome this BUT...” category.
This effectively means that government policy intentions are genuinely sincere and the policies are a step in the right direction - but don’t always go far enough with their ambitions.
The recent call about building a wellbeing economy, in a letter written to the First Minister, is a good example of organisations (over 100 in this example) coming together to call for greater policy urgency.
There’s also an ongoing, general issue with policy implementation and the tools used to drive practical, real-world policy change within local communities.
This is the situation where good, strong, evidence-based policy-making from parliament is passed into law but actual implementation by delivery partners is not always effectively monitored.
It’s something we’re keenly aware of in the world of policy and we’re interested to hear the views of grassroots organisations about their own experiences!
But what about this particular Programme for Government? What do we welcome?
Anti-poverty is an ongoing core theme, since the First Minister’s high-profile Anti-Poverty Summit, that included organisations like SES and SCVO, the national media and opposition party leaders.
There are three key missions underpinning the programme, namely Equality (Tackling poverty and protecting people from harm), Opportunity (Building a fair, green and growing economy) and Community (Delivering efficient and effective public services).
The document clearly states: “Our vision is for a wellbeing economy - an economy which meets the needs and aspirations of people and provides opportunities for all.”
It also says: “We will also consider proactive regulatory changes which support businesses in Scotland, especially our small businesses and social enterprises.”
It’s welcome that we have a continued commitment to: “Undertake an independent review of how we maximise the potential of employee-owned cooperatives and social enterprises and ensure that social entrepreneurs play a key part in the growth of Scotland as a Start-Up Nation”, as part of wider economic and business support strategies (read more below about the specific policy pledges).
Also bear in mind that we have the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) process, that SES is a part of, plus other active policy initiatives, in addition to the new programme.
We look forward to working with government officials and ministers to ensure that the voice of social enterprises from every community in Scotland is heard loud and clear.
Of course, as mentioned, the key is in implementation. In this spirit we’ll be doing everything we can to ensure practical policy benefits reach local frontline social enterprises and the communities they serve.
Some of the key policy commitments from the Programme for Government that are of relevance to social enterprise:
- A continued commitment to fairer funding for charitable organisations.A potential wider review of charity regulation.
- All care workers to be paid at least £12 an hour.
- Continued investment in Scottish Child Payment of £25 per child per week.
- Implement the recommendations of the New Deal for Business Group.
- Ensure small businesses are engaged from the earliest stage of policy development and establish a new Small Business Unit.
- Work with business to develop a process for identifying, considering and removing unnecessary regulations.
- 3 year programme to raise productivity and deliver cost savings for small businesses.
- Maintain and improve prompt payment in public supply chains.
- Make it easier to start and scale a business with a new enterprise package.
- Calling on the UK Government to legislate to put an Essentials Guarantee in place to adequately cover the cost of life essentials.
- Legislation for the new National Care Service in the year ahead.
- Four Day Working Week public sector pilot by the end of this calendar year.
- Place-based investment and community-led regeneration, investing £70 million to support inclusive economic development in disadvantaged and fragile communities.
- £9 million Investing in Communities Fund, which prioritises key areas tackling poverty and inequality, community-led regeneration, and just transition to net zero.
- Increase the number of employers who pay at least the Real Living Wage through Fair Work conditionality for grants.
- £405 million in the Scottish Child Payment this year.
- Invest £5.3 billion in Scottish Government benefits in 2023-24, supporting over 1.2 million people.
- Recognising the third sector strategic role in enabling the transformation and delivery of person-centred public services.
Duncan Thorp is policy and public affairs manager, Social Enterprise Scotland