The Editor’s Post: 'Political champion' of social enterprise John Swinney becomes Scottish first minister

John Swinney, the new Scottish first minister, has been a long-term champion of the social enterprise sector. This week’s view from the Pioneers Post newsroom, written by reporter David Lyons.

Scotland’s already world-leading social enterprise sector appears to be in good hands following the announcement this week of John Swinney as the country’s new first minister. 

As reported by Pioneers Post, Swinney played a crucial role in the development of the Scottish social enterprise support system and has been a long-term champion of the sector. Opening the Social Enterprise World Forum in Edinburgh in 2018, Swinney said: “Social enterprises are a full and proper articulation of the moral purpose we need in our society.”

In his inaugural speech as first minister, delivered this week, Swinney outlined his policy priorities, at the same time as calling for other parties to collaborate with the minority government he has inherited. The priorities he highlighted, as well as the need for collaboration, are clear fits with values the social enterprise sector champions.  

Swinney said: “If we want to fund our schools and our hospitals, if we want to give our businesses a competitive edge, if we want to take climate action, if we want to eradicate child poverty, if we want to change people’s lives for the better, we have to work together to do so.”

Martin Avila, CEO of social enterprise support agency CEIS, noted the symbolism of Swinney choosing to announce his candidacy from the Grassmarket Community Project in Edinburgh, which supports marginalised and disenfranchised people through four social enterprises: a cafe, an event space, a tartan shop and a woodwork recycling furniture project. 

Avila told Pioneers Post: “For a social enterprise sector that is always high on ambition the appointment of John Swinney must surely be a strong shot in the arm. Arguably there’s been no better political champion of social enterprise than the new first minister. I think he has unfinished business in regards to his vision of what social enterprise can be. It’s up to us now to meet that level of ambition.”

Between leading a minority government, attempting to unite the SNP and his party facing heavy losses to Labour in the upcoming UK general election, Swinney has a lot on his plate. But support for social enterprise has been one of the foundations of Swinney’s political career, one he will likely rely on once again as he looks to rebuild Scotland’s economy. 


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Image: John Swinney (Scottish Government, Flickr, CC BY 2.0 DEED)