Scotland is in danger of prioritising an outdated approach to economic recovery over the wellbeing of people and the environment.
A coalition of third sector bodies is calling for the membership of the Scottish Government’s Council for Economic Transformation, which is due to publish Scotland’s new 10-year economic strategy in the autumn, to be reviewed to better represent the full breadth of Scotland’s economy.
The coalition says the Scottish Government needs to engage more with social and environmental groups who have been excluded from the advisory council but who are vital to a successful recovery from Covid.
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Social Enterprise Scotland, the Third Sector Interface Scotland Network, Volunteer Scotland, Social Enterprise Network Scotland, the Chartered Institute of Fundraising Scotland and the Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations have come together to promote the role voluntary organisations and social enterprises play in recovery from Covid.
Collectively, the group represents more than 110,000 staff members and 1.4 million volunteers that make up around 40,000 organisations from grassroots community groups to around 25,000 registered charities and over 6,000 social enterprises.
Anna Fowlie, chief executive of SCVO, said: “Scotland’s voluntary organisations and social enterprises are integral to Scotland’s economic and social fabric. They provide good quality jobs and support into employment. They tackle digital inclusion, provide social care and housing, and support for the most disadvantaged people and communities. They undertake vital medical and environmental research. Culture is key to recovery, and the voluntary sector runs most of our theatres, museums, galleries and sports clubs.
“Tackling poverty and inequalities and addressing systemic issues such as climate change and a just transition to a net-zero economy are intrinsic to the work of charities, community organisations and social enterprises.
“The council’s existing call for views will not reach all key actors delivering services and practical solutions across these areas. The advisory council and policymakers supporting it should question the absence of the voluntary sector in any part of the economic strategy, engage with the relevant bodies, and address these gaps.”
The group is calling for wider and more meaningful engagement across Scotland before the creation of a new Scottish Government economic strategy.
They say the strategy has to recognise and invest in charities and social enterprises as significant employers, partners, vital economic actors, and agents for change in Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic, alongside the public and private sectors.
Chris Martin, chief executive of Social Enterprise Scotland said: “We strongly believe in positive economic transformation that directly benefits both people and planet. Social enterprises and third sector organisations must be at the forefront of this change.
“During the pandemic lockdown it was social enterprises, charities, community groups and other third sector organisations that led the way when statutory services and private sector businesses were often unable to operate. From tackling food poverty to housing, child and adult care, mental health and much more.
“These organisations must be empowered to help lead the way to a new economy over the course of the next decade. It is social enterprises, third sector organisations and other values-led businesses that have many of the bold ideas to drive transformation. They must be included in all government economic policy-making.”
Last year, the report from the Scottish Government advisory group on economic recovery stated the third sector should be at the heart of planning for recovery and renewal and recognised its critical contribution to the goal of a wellbeing economy in Scotland. But now government action to to create a coherent plan for economic recovery from Covid actually excludes the sector and the communities it works with.
Anthea Coulter, Chief Officer with Clackmannanshire TSI, on behalf of the TSI Scotland Network outlined: “Scotland’s 10-year economic strategy must set out a long-term blueprint for how the Scottish Government will transform Scotland’s economy to secure the wellbeing of all, tackling inequalities while also meeting environmental needs and meeting some our objectives set out in the TSI Manifesto for Change. To achieve this, the advisory council must equip itself with the views of all parts of society and reach into communities to learn more of their needs.
“The limited consultation exercise over the summer months, combined with the expectation that the Scottish Government will publish the strategy this autumn, suggests it will fall short of this.
“The Scottish Government needs to bolster its engagement to include voluntary organisations and communities across Scotland and promote a truly participatory approach to shaping Scotland’s economy.”
Social Enterprise Scotland’s response to the Council on Economic Transformation call to evidence