What ‘Accelerating Growth’ could mean for social enterprises in South East Scotland

Gavin Yuill, Managing Director, Yuill Community Trust: CIC
The City Region Deal bid, at its heart, is a mechanism to support new ideas.  It is an opportunity for local people to take charge of the decisions that affect their area. It is built on the belief that shifting power from central government to the people of a place will make it quicker, and easier, to achieve sustainable economic growth. And it is about encouraging collaboration across a wider economic area: increasing the scale of the 'Accelerating Growth'. 

The ideals of the City Region Deal also run through the central principles of social enterprise: local people who work together in good faith will make a more profound difference in resolving local problems. So the question is, what could 'Accelerating Growth' mean for social enterprise in the region? From the perspective of #SocialEnterpriseSouthEastScotland, support from the 'Accelerating Growth' deal would transform the sector forever.

The Social Enterprise 2015 Census estimates the GVA contribution from the social enterprise sector to the Scottish economy is £1.68 Billion (1.77% of the Scottish Economy's GVA rate in 2013); yet the average person struggles to define what social enterprise is. Is it not for profit, a charity, fairtrade, community groups, a cooperative or socially conscious businesses? Of course, it can be all of those things. However, if social enterprise had a recognised regional identity, #SESES believes it could significantly increase the sector's GVA contribution. 

In recognition of both this idea, and the huge opportunity that the City Region Deal could provide, the region's six local authority social enterprise networks have come together independently, to develop the country's first ever social enterprise regional network. 

Social enterprise is built from the foundations of social capital: people who are socially connected will be more productive - both socially in reducing inequality, and economically in terms of growth. Each of the six networks sees this principle in action on the ground each day, working with local communities, but the wider public generally don't see what the sector does because there is no face. A social enterprise zone would change all that. 

The zone will become the inspiring public face of the sector, both physically and virtually. The hubs will primarily focus on revitalising existing buildings, showing local people what is possible when it comes to revitalizing town centres across the region, and anyone will be able to benefit from the support of the dedicated social enterprise facilities. 

Having collectively been involved in social enterprise for decades, #SESES knows that the hub network will work. Each of the six regions are involved in individual projects that are making a difference, but by working together it will allow each authority area to resolve local issues through regional collaboration: a larger melting pot of ideas to draw from, and be inspired by. 

One of the biggest long term differences would come from economies of scale. The large scale City Deal funding will allow #SESES to access match funding of a similar proportion. This would help support locally administered project investment funds and employment programmes, both of which would benefit from the long track record and in depth experiences of #SESES network members.

And the outcome of this vision? The profile of social enterprise would be raised and defined within a new brand so that people would be able to instinctively define what social enterprise is.  They will see it in their every day life as they walk down their town centre streets, and they will consider social enterprise as part of the “mainstream”. It will no longer be doing great work in the background, it will be front and centre across the region.  Anyone looking for employment, at any stage, will consider social enterprise as a credible career route.  They will recognise social enterprise as the sector that can provide immediate solutions to local problems, and the sector that will allow them to stay in their communities; building a career by improving the quality life of the society in which they live.  This is what the #SocialEnterpriseSouthEastScotland regional network will provide.

#SocialEnterpriseSouthEastScotland believes that the regional hub network has the potential to benefit not only the South East of Scotland, but the rest of Scotland and the UK.  And beyond that, it has the potential to become a world exemplar for generating sustainable community growth; and this is what #SESES will endeavour to become. Because of this, the six local authority social enterprise networks have already formed #SESES, and have begun the journey in establishing this big new idea.

If the 'Accelerating Growth' deal was to be agreed, the first ever social enterprise zone would arrive today rather than tomorrow; and sustainable long term economic growth will arrive sooner rather than later.  So please, support the deal, and let the social enterprise sector of the South East show the way.

A Joint Vision for the Region

Cllr Stuart Bell - Vice Chair of SESPlan and Executive Member for Economic Development, Scottish Borders Council

The Strategic Development Plan, the second version of which will be published next year, provides a long-term vision for cross boundary planning issues such as housing, economic growth, green networks and infrastructure across South East Scotland.

While the majority of people in the region live in and around Edinburgh, in communities along the M8 corridor or in larger towns in Fife, many live in small towns and villages across the region. Rural industries are vital, particularly in the Scottish Borders and East Lothian.

Our vision is for the region to be a healthier, more prosperous and sustainable place which continues to be internationally recognised as an outstanding area in which to live, work and do business.  We want to build on the strengths of all parts of the region while also conserving and enhancing the high quality built and natural environment of the area.

As a successful region, we are also a growing region. This brings challenges:

  • Our population is expected to grow from around 1.25 million in 2014 to just under 1.5 million in 2037
  • The number of households in the area will increase by around 140,000 between 2012 and 2037 (National Records of Scotland 2012 Based Projections).  

Our demographics will also change with an increasing proportion of people living in older and single person households.  

Parts of the region enjoy good access to transport, infrastructure and digital networks, others are less well served and there are significant constraints and major issues to be addressed. Constrained digital and transport networks limit the delivery of our vision and the development of key, nationally significant growth sectors in the city region. Projects such as the Borders Railway, Queensferry Crossing and enhanced rail services to Glasgow and elsewhere are improving connectivity and unlocking housing and business opportunities. However, further interventions will be required to realise the potential of the area. Ongoing infrastructure delivery, including improvements in digital connectivity, is also essential to the development of more sustainable communities. 

City Region Deals have been effective elsewhere in facilitating these kinds of improvements through a combination of funding by central and local government. The amount of funding is dependent on the improved performance of the regional economy, and on contributions from the private sector.

Infrastructure and housing are obvious planning challenges, but we also face two key economic challenges: we must improve our productivity and reduce our inequalities. We are the most prosperous city region outside of London, but this wealth is not shared by all. A quarter of children are born into poverty, and our productivity is well behind international competitor city regions such as Munich, Copenhagen and Dublin.

I am pleased to see that skills and innovation packages linked to infrastructure and housing programmes feature heavily in our city region deal bid to address these challenges.

SESplan is working closely with the City Region Deal team across the six local authorities to coordinate partnership activities, and to ensure that economic ambitions are aligned with the strategic development plan. Importantly, we are also working with a number of national and regional partners including: SEStran to understand the significance of transport infrastructure projects; the NHS Boards and universities to see how their existing investment plans can meet the needs of the region; Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway to develop projects around innovation; and Digital Scotland in the rollout of faster broadband.

I look forward to working with national and regional partners in delivering a number of exciting projects for the Edinburgh and South East Scotland city region.