While there has been significant academic focus on social enterprise policy for a number of years now, the links between policy and the practice of social enterprise have received comparatively less attention. Scotland is recognised as having a particularly supportive environment for social enterprise; the Scottish Government has publicly endorsed social enterprise and made considerable investment into the sector. Based upon an in-depth qualitative analysis of the perceptions of social enterprise practitioners and stakeholders across Scotland, we explore whether the rhetoric of support matches practitioners experience of ‘doing’ social enterprise. Reviewing emerging issues and reflecting upon the complex nature of the Scottish context, including in relation to welfare reform, we find that in contrast to the claims of politicians, the attitude of local authorities in Scotland, coupled with a lack of understanding of the needs and requirements of social enterprise at the local authority level, has led to a rather more ‘patchwork’ picture than the rhetoric would seem to suggest. While some local authorities recognise the potential of social enterprise for their local economies and privilege and encourage cooperation, others are less inclined to openly support social enterprise, particularly those that are small in scale. Underpinning these contentions, we argue, are unrealistic expectations about the prospects of social enterprises being able to become ‘sustainable’, and how this could be achieved.
- social enterprise
- policy and practice