All I want for Christmas is…practical policy implementation 

Posted: 07 December 2023, in News

Just in case you were wondering – I’m not Mariah Carey. And it’s fair to say she doesn’t write enough songs about Scottish public policy these days. 

Apart from familiar seasonal tunes, December is also a good time to reflect on the past year to our successes and challenges and to look forward to January resolutions. 

A common theme going forward for many social enterprises and third sector organisations that work in public policy is practical policy implementation

It’s something we’re increasingly noticing, talking about and seeking to evaluate. 

As I’ve mentioned in many recent conversations, there is much high quality, evidence-based legislation and regulations from parliament, genuinely informed by lived experience and sector expertise. 

However, this frequently doesn’t translate into practical, grassroots social change to people’s lives at a local community level.  

But why is that? What can we do about it? How can we measure and monitor implementation?  

There’s no easy answer or quick fix. While parliament does have what is known as “post-legislative scrutiny” processes, this isn’t enough to trigger genuine, fundamental cultural change at a local level. 

The hopes and dreams of legal changes to procurement, community empowerment laws and land reform are yet to be fully realised – despite various pieces of legislation. 

Though there is certainly a sincere recognition of this issue within government and parliament, with inquiries and new legislation in some areas, we still have a long way to go.  

This is particularly stark in a post-lockdown and cost of living crisis world, where we all previously pledged to do things differently, to break down sector barriers, work together and tackle the big social problems in our economy and society. 

Social Enterprise Scotland is part of the NSET (National Strategy for Economic Transformation) group, that’s reviewing how we can practically increase the number of social enterprises, cooperatives and employee-owned businesses in Scotland.  

This is part of a wider, significant government policy initiative looking at economic transformation in every sector of the economy. 

We also have Community Wealth Building legislation coming up, that seeks a fundamental, democratic shift in local economic development. This is after an in-depth and wide-ranging consultation process. This all feeds into the grand aim of building a wellbeing economy in Scotland.  

While this is clear evidence of a real desire and hope for fundamental economic change it’s sometimes difficult not to be cynical about what will actually change for ordinary people in our local communities.  

Of course, alongside our partner organisations, we’re trying to make this happen on the ground.    

I refuse to be a cynic, particularly in the season of goodwill. I’m naturally optimistic about the ability of people and organisations to drive positive social change. The evidence shows that our incredible social enterprises across Scotland and the world are leading the way. 

We are pleased that we have a big change in the direction of travel, with economic transformation and a democratic economy firmly placed at the centre of government policy, along with a specific Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy. 

Practical examples of policy success include the significant increase in the Scottish Child Payment and the increase in the number of employers paying the voluntary real Living Wage in Scotland, now at around 3,400, promoted as part of the Fair Work agenda.  

It’s our role, along with SCVO, Prosper (formerly SCDI) and other important policy partners, to help ensure that policy becomes reality in local communities and benefits everyone.  

We look forward to working in partnership with all social enterprises, local Social Enterprise Networks and Third Sector Interfaces to make sure this happens. 

Don’t forget that this festive season is also an ideal opportunity to use our gifting powers to drive social impact. While I write my letter to Mariah to ask her to spend her dollars at #BuySocialScotland I hope you’ll support it too! 

Best wishes for the festive break and see you in the new year… 

Duncan Thorp, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Social Enterprise Scotland