Deputy First Minister of Scotland backs social enterprise

The Deputy First Minister spoke at the Social Enterprise Summit in Inverness, saying social ventures were central to the Scottish government's aims.

The Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, has pledged the Scottish government’s support for social enterprise in Scotland. In a speech in which he also praised Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for 50 years of development work in the region, he explained why he saw social enterprises as so important.

“What we don’t want to see is social enterprise perceived as something that is peripheral to our wider economic agenda within the country. We want the development of the social enterprise movement to be central to the achievement of our wider economic aims.”

Swinney drew some laughter from the well attended summit as he emphasised how First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had made her views very clear to her closest colleagues about the journey to economic growth for Scotland. He related how Sturgeon had insisted that nobody was to be left behind and that ministers should focus on how to create opportunities for all to flourish through increased and sustainable economic growth. Swinney went on to say that "the social enterprise sector had the most colossal role to play in making this happen".

As he is the finance secretary of the Scottish government, there has been recent speculation about how Swinney will react to the Treasury's cut to Holyrood's funding. With less money to play with, he will be grateful for any organisations addressing social problems without the need for government financial backing.

The highlands and islands of Scotland are somewhat of a hotbed of social enterprise. Although the region comprises only 9% of the population, one in five of the country’s social ventures are to be found here, with the sector proving particularly strong in delivery of social care and childcare. Rachael McCormack, director of strengthening communities for HIE, commented: “There is an innate sense of people doing things for themselves in our region.” 

Yvonne Strachan, head of equality, human rights and third sector for the Scottish Government later appeared at the summit to explain the criteria they were looking at for a ten-year strategy for social enterprise. Relevant organisations across Scotland have been consulted and an announcement will be made later this year.

Photo credit: Tim Winterburn