Academics from across the world have written to Scotland’s Social Justice secretary to express their “considerable concern” at plans to stop funding for a social enterprise body.
More than 120 people from 28 different countries have signed a letter to MSP Shona Robison in which they criticise the decision to end taxpayer funding for Social Enterprise Network Scotland (Senscot), and urges them to put the breaks on the move to a new, single body.
Professor Michael Roy, from Glasgow Caledonian University’s Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, described Senscot as a “genuine Scottish success story” which had helped place the country “at the forefront of the social enterprise movement internationally”.
Mr Roy, who organised the letter, said: “Not only is the decision based on the false premise that the diverse social enterprise sector in Scotland has been crying out for a single support body but the timing of the whole thing really couldn’t be any worse.
“Throughout the pandemic, people in grassroots social enterprises have been working tirelessly to support our communities, and there is still a huge amount of work to be done to repair the damage.
“We now have the cost-of-living crisis. We simply cannot afford to lose the 10 highly respected female sector leaders who have been handed redundancy notices as a result of this decision.”
Social enterprises are businesses designed to fulfil a social or environmental mission, and there are around 6,000 in Scotland.
They employ around 90,000 people north of the border and contribute £2.3 billion to the economy.
The letter – which includes signatories from the United States, Italy, Australia and Japan, as well as others – said the support infrastructure for social enterprises in Scotland needed to be “nurtured and supported, rather than being placed in jeopardy at this crucial time”.
Mr Roy said: “My colleagues around the world were especially shocked at the decision given Scotland’s hard-won reputation as a leader internationally on social enterprise. I have colleagues in Canada that teach about Senscot’s approach in their university degree programmes.
“I’ve had emails of support from senior professors in England and across Europe who have worked with Senscot over many years on different projects.
“They consider Senscot’s approach and leadership to be an example of international best practice. Colleagues in Australia are presently working to create their own support infrastructure for social enterprise based on Senscot model.”
Ms Robison said the Scottish Government was working “with both current organisations to ensure the successful development of a single organisation”.
“We set out our plan last year to fund a single intermediary body with responsibility for representing and advocating for the social enterprise sector,” she said.
“There was an open and transparent selection process by an Independent Assessment Panel but of course we can understand there will be disappointment from the candidate who was not appointed.
“The decision has been well communicated and the sector has also been clear that it wants transformational change.
“I want the diverse voices of the sector to influence the future direction and set the priorities for the new single body and for it to become fully representative of, and responsive to, the social enterprise sector.”
Senscot was created in 2010 following a merger of Social Firms Scotland and Social Entrepreneurs Network Scotland, and it said that over the past two decades it had supported the development and growth of social enterprises in the country as well as developing its support infrastructure.