Social enterprise: action plan

Plan reasserting our long-term vision of social enterprise at the forefront of a new wave of ethical and socially responsible business in Scotland.

Guiding Principles

There are a number of broad principles that will underpin this action plan and guide its implementation over the next three years.


The Scottish Government continues to foster close co-operation with the social enterprise community, and recognises the need to co-produce and co-deliver solutions.

To ensure continuing co-production, we will form a strategic advisory group, reflective of the diverse society we live in and with appropriate representation to guide implementation of this action plan. Where required, a small number of sub groups and working groups supported by sector partners will be formed to progress key workstreams, this will ensure an effective voice for social enterprises, and share best practice among those organisations supporting the social enterprise sector.

We will maintain a strong relationship with the sector based on effective communication, openness, transparency, and trust.

Joined Up

We recognise that many stakeholders must play an active role if we are to deliver on the ambitions of this action plan.

From within the Public Bodies and Public Service Reform division, the Enterprising Third Sector team will continue to perform a strategic role, working across government and with national agencies to pursue parity of service and unlock the full potential of the sector – in areas such as education, economic development, and the environment. We will encourage greater recognition of social enterprise within government policies, plans and programmes and ensure strong cross-directorate working to realise opportunities for the sector in driving inclusive economic growth and reducing inequalities.

Through the delivery of this action plan we will engage with organisations across the public sector, encouraging them to increase their support for frontline social enterprises through the combined energy, resources and investment they can bring. This will build on the already significant contribution of partners in this respect through local social enterprise strategies and plans.

We will work directly with partners to bring forward support that is national in reach and local in impact. We will ensure that any funding opportunities are clearly communicated and that the work we fund will complement and add value to the already vibrant support ecosystem. This will be taken forward via a funding strategy that encourage a more strategic approach, allocating resource to support the sector, linked to this Action Plan and the National Performance Framework. We will look to prioritise support for national level programmes and projects, whilst encouraging a wider public sector approach to support and encouraging regional and local investment by appropriate departments and bodies. The new funding strategy will be made available for the sector to ensure there is transparency on how funding decisions will be taken.


We recognise that the work introduced as part of this action plan must be based on the best available evidence and that must remain responsive to the needs of the sector as it evolves. This has been particularly evident during the Covid crisis, with the Scottish Government having made available over £100m in emergency grant funding to social enterprises.

We will continue to be led by evidence produced in the biennial census of social enterprise activity, an objective source of data on the contribution, characteristics, and needs of the sector. The Census is supported by a representative steering group from within the Social Enterprise ecosystem and the results will help us better understand the changing needs of the sector as we move past the immediate impact of the global pandemic.

Where possible we will combine data available from the social enterprise census with other evidence produced by national agencies and sector partners to produce a fuller picture of the contribution of our investment and impact on the sector.

As we have set out above we will ensure transparent and evidence-based funding that achieves maximum impact for the sector, working with strategic partners, and associated programmes we fund as part of this action plan. Funded projects will be monitored against agreed outcomes to ensure that programmes and activity remain effective and increasingly provides good value for money.


We must ensure the activity we directly fund is open and accessible to social entrepreneurs and social enterprises across Scotland.

We will ensure that activity supported under this action plan is inclusive in its design and reach.

In particular it should:

  • Embrace the principles of Fair Work,
  • Remain equally accessible to rural and island communities, reflecting the particular needs of these communities in line with the commitments of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018[10]; and
  • Actively seek to reflect the diversity of Scotland, with particular respect to protected characteristics as set out in the Equality Act 2010[11].

We will build these considerations into our funding processes and, where necessary, provide additional focus and support for targeted groups or locations as informed by the census.

Financially Sustainable

As a government we must ensure that activity supported under this action plan is efficiently delivered and designed with financial sustainability at its core. We recognise the mixed economy of resourcing that social enterprise needs whilst working with organisations to realise enterprise potential where viable.

We will directly fund ongoing programme activity where it aims to provide a national level of support across the social enterprise sector, where there is evidence of effectiveness, and where it is central to the implementation of this action plan and consistent with its guiding principles.

We will support pilot projects where there is likely to be significant national learning and/or a route to achieving sustainable outcomes.



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