Social Economy

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10 November 2011.

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Photo of Anne McTaggart Anne McTaggart Labour

2. To ask the Scottish Executive how it is strengthening the social economy to enhance sustainable growth. (S4O-00339)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the development of a sustainable and enterprising third sector, which is a key partner in helping Scotland to a successful and fairer future. Over the next three years, the Scottish Government will provide £73.5 million to the third sector, which is an 18.3 per cent increase on the period 2004 to 2007.

Photo of Anne McTaggart Anne McTaggart Labour

Many of the social enterprises that have contacted me have raised concerns that the Government cuts to the third sector are increasing the demand on the social economy for its services. How will the minister address those concerns in order to support further this vital area of the economy?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

One of the great strengths of the period since 2007 has been the positive response that we have had from third sector organisations, which are willing to develop social enterprises and to ensure that the third sector is placed on a more sustainable footing. I spend a good proportion of my time visiting a number of social enterprises around the country. I visited one recently in the city of Aberdeen called Aberdeen Foyer, which is an excellent example of an imaginative and regenerative social enterprise.

The Government will certainly give a firm commitment to the continuation of the development of the social enterprise sector, despite the challenging public finance environment in which we operate. I reiterate to Anne McTaggart and other members that the Government is continuing, despite the financial pressures that we face, to support substantial investment in the third sector.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Mark McDonald has a supplementary question.

Photo of Mark McDonald Mark McDonald Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary rightly highlighted some of the good work that Aberdeen Foyer has done. As the Government looks to shift towards preventative spending, what role does he see organisations such as Aberdeen Foyer and others in the voluntary sector playing as part of that agenda?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I envisage a significant role for third sector organisations in the preventative spend agenda on which the Government is focused. I want to point out to Mr McDonald a detail about Aberdeen Foyer with which I am sure he is familiar.

On my visit, I saw a number of excellent examples of preventative expenditure. Individuals who face substantial difficulties in their lives through drug and alcohol addiction, who would undoubtedly have required substantial support from the public purse or perhaps even got involved in the criminal justice system, have had their lives turned round by intervention to support employability. It was thrilling to learn about the journey that the individuals have taken and I warmly compliment them on their achievements.

Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

Social enterprises have a major role to play in community regeneration. The town centre in Whitburn, in my region, has suffered three major fires and the closure of the Royal British Legion. Will the cabinet secretary visit Whitburn with me and local stakeholders, including representatives from social enterprises, to discuss how the Scottish Government can help to rebuild a proud town?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I will not commit at this stage to a visit to Whitburn but I will certainly ensure that officials are in touch with Mr Findlay about how we can ensure that all the local organisations are made aware of all the different areas of support that exist for the development of social enterprise in Scotland. Given the circumstances that he has recounted, I suspect that there is an argument for advice about regeneration strategy into the bargain. I am certain that we can co-operate with West Lothian Council in that regard. I will take the matter forward and take a keen interest in the issues that arise as a consequence.