John Bird: Let’s follow Scotland’s lead to boost social enterprise
The rest of the UK should follow Scotland’s lead and develop a strategy to push forward social enterprise, the Big Issue’s John Bird told the House of Lords on 10 January.
Crossbench peer and Big Issue co-founder Lord Bird was speaking in a Lords debate on social enterprise. He said he was pleased to hear the prime minister’s “shared society” speech on Monday and noted that she mentioned social enterprise ten times. “So it looks as though we are in for a bean feast in the future for social enterprise,” he said.
However, he added: “Unfortunately, the whole system is moving rather slowly. If you carry on at this rate, somewhere towards the end of this century we might be able to have a social enterprise industry that actually gets to the parts of society that big business cannot get to.
“Is it possible maybe to imitate the Scottish government’s idea of having a ten-year strategy to look at ways in which to do social enterprise in every conceivable way?”
Lord Ashton of Hyde, who is an undersecretary of state at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, responded that the government was strengthening social enterprise, highlighting that the chancellor had increased what he referred to as the "social investment tax allowance". The chancellor increased the investment limit for social investment tax relief in the autumn statement in November 2016. Lord Ashton added: “I do not think you can say it is moving slowly when one million people work for social enterprises.”
Somewhere towards the end of this century we might be able to have a social enterprise industry that actually gets to the parts of society that big business cannot get to
The Scottish government published its Social Enterprise Strategy on 14 December 2016. The document sets out a number of steps which aim to growing the sector over the next ten years, and developing Scotland’s position as a world leader in social enterprise.
At the launch of the strategy, Scotland’s communities and equalities secretary, Angela Constance said: “Social enterprises have fantastic potential in terms of economic benefit, currently contributing £1.68bn to our economy and providing employment opportunities. We want to release that potential and allow them to thrive.”
Lord Bird, who spent time in prison when he was younger, added that he looked forward to running a prison as a social enterprise. “I myself look forward to the day when they can offer me a prison, because I would love to run one and I would do it better than Group 4.”