Scotland, social enterprise and the UK General Election

Posted: 30 May 2024, in News

Barring some extraterrestrial invasion or shock AI takeover, the UK General Election is taking place on Thursday 4 July. 

In many countries, including Scotland, national elections have a fixed date but in the UK it’s up to the government to choose when we have an election (so long as it’s no longer than five years).

You may be lucky enough to be in Spain and the kids will be off school but there’s always a postal vote for those who wish to participate in this occasional democratic exercise. 

Broadly speaking social enterprise and third sector support and development is the responsibility of The Scottish Parliament, Government and local authorities. 

But it’s worth bearing in mind that many policy areas – that have a direct impact on social enterprises and on our daily lives – are still reserved to the UK Government and Parliament. This includes:  

  • The economy and currency   
  • Many areas of taxation  
  • Company and employment law  
  • Trade and industry  
  • Some social security benefits   
  • Consumer protection   
  • Most aspects of energy  
  • Most equalities law  

Westminster elections use the old First Past the Post voting system, so we know it’s likely to be either the current ruling Conservative Party or the Labour Party that will have a majority (or at least be the biggest party next time, perhaps supported by others).  

Opinion polls are strongly indicating a change in government to Labour, which may mean a change in the direction of policy in many reserved areas, affecting social enterprises in every part of urban and rural Scotland.  

We’ll certainly evidence the existing powerful economic contribution of Scottish social enterprises to all the political parties and candidates, now and in the coming weeks.  

According to the most recent Social Enterprise Census report, social enterprises continue to be a valuable and increasingly important asset to Scotland’s economy (the report will be updated this year with new statistics).   

This contribution, known as Gross Value Added (GVA) was £2.63bn in around 2021, up from £2.4bn in 2017. It’s this type of figure that really brings home the economic value.   

In addition, we have other strong financial indicators, with the total net worth of social enterprises at £7bn, up from £3.9bn in 2015.  

There were almost 90,000 full time equivalent jobs provided by social enterprises in 2021, up from just over 81,000 in 2017.  

It’s clear that there’s much more economic potential for social enterprise growth in the coming years.  

We’re a partner in the Future Economy Alliance, a broad, inclusive and innovative initiative that seeks to lobby UK political parties before, during and after the vote.  

This pioneering partnership brings together social enterprises, co-operatives, mutuals, employee-owned businesses, social investors, community-led organisations, fundraisers and third sector experts, united in the vision of an economy where society profits.  

We’re seeking to go beyond business as usual, to campaign for an economy where everyone receives their fair share of economic prosperity.  

We need to continue building alliances for change in economic policy, right now as well as post-election. We’ll continue working closely with social enterprises, in every part of Scotland, to make this vision a reality.

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