Happy new year from Co-operative Development Scotland

11/12/15 - 15112301 - SCOTTISH ENTERPRISE    GLASGOW    Claire Alexander

By Clare Alexander, head of Co-operative Development Scotland

2019 was another busy year for Co-operative Development Scotland, with our team working hard to spread the word about the benefits of co-operative business models and offer expert support and guidance to businesses across Scotland.

We’ve seen an encouraging number of businesses make their move to employee ownership in the last year. In Glasgow, staff at care provider Aspire Housing, construction firm Pacific Building, engineering consultancy Grossart Associates and architectural practice Anderson Bell Christie were all given a stake in the business. In Edinburgh, IT service provider Quorum Network Resources and contemporary art gallery the Scottish Gallery both set up Employee Ownership Trusts.

The founders of GS Brown Precision Engineering in Fife, garden centre New Hopetoun Gardens in West Lothian, IT provider Exmos in Grangemouth and Dundee based demolition contractor Safedem all saw the benefits of selling to their workforce, as did Stornoway production company MacTV and Shetland-based ESPL Regulatory Consulting and Laurence Odie Knitwear.

The ESPL Regulatory Consulting team at their Shetland location. Picture L-R: Holly Hunter, Diane Wood, Anna Watt, Helen Erwood, Tony Erwood.  Taken 29-03-2018.

The ESPL Regulatory Consulting team

The employee-owned businesses we have supported in previous years continue to report a range of successes and benefits, from growth in size and profit to having a highly engaged and committed workforce.

In May, we joined forces with the Law Society of Scotland and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) to host our first programme of events aimed at raising awareness of employee ownership among members of the legal, accounting and banking professions. Professional advisers play an important role in informing clients about employee ownership as a business succession model, therefore increasing the number of firms that are able to offer specialist guidance in this area is key to growing employee ownership in Scotland. We were delighted with the amount of interest in the roadshow, with nearly 300 advisers attending.

We also partnered with local authorities, and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and Business Gateway networks to host our “Selling your business?” series of events, which saw representatives of established employee-owned businesses share their experiences of employee ownership with business owners who were at the start of their journey in beginning to explore their succession options.

HIE 2

We also branched out into podcasting – with the launch of our Employee Ownership podcast series in September of last year. Combining essential facts about the model, expert insight from EO advisers and solicitors, and the first-hand experiences of employee-owned businesses, the first eight episodes have been heavily downloaded, and proven to be a valuable and unique resource for those looking to learn more about employee ownership.

We’re very grateful to members of the employee ownership community across the country for their help with all of this activity – their support is vital in helping us promote the employee ownership model among Scotland’s business network. As the popularity of employee-ownership in Scotland continues to grow, so does our pipeline, and we look forward to welcoming more businesses to the community in the year ahead.

To learn more about EO and whether it could be right for your business, check out our resources page, listen to our podcast or get in touch with us here using the ‘expert support’ option.

Five Steps to Collaboration

Collaborating with others can be a highly effective way for a business to drive growth and innovation whilst sharing the associated costs and risks.

However, when it comes to forming or joining a consortium, what should a business consider? How does the process work and what are the specific benefits that can be delivered?

Here, CDS specialist advisor Suzanne Orchard shares a brief step-by-step guide to consortium working.

Suzann orchard

Step 1: Identify barriers to growth

For many small enterprises, lack of scale, time, finance or resources can all be barriers to accessing new markets, tendering for larger contracts or simply marketing their services.

Step 2: Look for a potential solution

Teaming up with other businesses to form a consortium is an excellent way to break down these barriers. Suitable for businesses of all sizes operating in any sector, this model can reduce the costs and risks associated with tackling new markets and investing in new products and services. It also enables businesses to share resources and knowledge. Meanwhile, member businesses are able to retain their own brands, independence and control.

Step 3: Find collaborators

Carefully identifying like-minded businesses to work with is crucial. Trust and aligned values and goals are a key factor. In most cases, member businesses operate in similar or complementary fields, and it can help if the businesses have worked together informally before.

Step 4: Choose the right structure

The consortium co-operative model is an effective collaborative business structure. In simple terms it is an organisation run in a shared and equal way by and for the benefit of its members. Members are independent businesses and the consortium can be for any purpose which supports them, for example marketing, tendering, innovating or exporting. Co-operative Development Scotland has a track record in helping businesses form consortium co-operatives and can help you explore the options.

Step 5: Benefit from your collaboration

Collaborating can be a real game-changer for businesses. The Glasgow Canal Co-op is a consortium of over 16 local organisations, established with the aim of unlocking the potential of the canal to create a vibrant neighbourhood for people to live, work and visit. The group sought support from Co-operative Development Scotland to formalise its collaboration, and now aims to encourage greater collaboration in the area and utilise local skills and assets collectively to connect with new audiences and visitors.

The co-operative organises the annual Glasgow Canal Festival, a summer programme of arts, heritage, environmental and watersports activities to celebrate the historic canal and its local communities. The Festival is a great way for the local organisations to promote themselves, reach new customers and make new connections.

GlasgowCanalFest19_88-banner-scaled

 

Other potential benefits of collaboration include accessing new markets, and being able to share the risks and costs associated with innovation, such as developing new products or services. Many businesses involved in consortium working also report increased confidence, better business connections, improved knowledge-sharing and an enhanced profile.

The benefits are significant and definitely worth exploring when considering the future of your business.

For more information about how collaboration could help you, please get in touch with us here using the ‘expert support’ option.

STORNOWAY MEDIA PRODUCTION COMPANY MACTV BECOMES EMPLOYEE-OWNED

Stornoway-based production company MacTV recently joined the growing number of employee-owned businesses in Scotland, with 18 employees given a stake in the business.

Established in 2001, award-winning MacTV is the largest independent TV company in the Highlands and Islands. Specialising in factual documentary, arts and music programmes in both Gaelic and English, the company is one of the biggest producers of programming for BBC ALBA. Its main production base is in the Hebrides, with staff also in the central belt, and in recent years the company has also been involved in a variety of international co-productions, working with companies in Canada, Ireland, Iceland and Wales.

When managing director Bill Morrison began to look ahead to his retirement, there were a number of considerations, including a preference to try and ensure that the business remained based in Stornoway, and that the company’s positive community ethos and culture remained at its core. Bill identified employee ownership as a potential ideal solution, and he subsequently got in touch with Highlands and Islands Enterprise to explore the option in more detail. From there, he was introduced to Co-operative Development Scotland.  We caught up with Bill to find out more.

MacTV Group 1

“In the 18 years since it was established, the hugely talented and hardworking team at MacTV has helped build a highly regarded production company which is recognised at both a national and international level for producing important and compelling programming with Scotland’s unique spirit at its heart. With a workforce truly rooted in the community, the passion, skills and local knowledge of our staff is vital to the quality of our output.

“A traditional trade sale may have seen us bought by a competitor, potentially risking job security and compromising our offering. Employee ownership ensures that the company is owned by and run for the benefit of those most close to it, while providing ongoing economic benefit to the area by anchoring the work and jobs in the local community. Our new employee owners now have an increased stake in their own future, with a say in the business, empowering them to shape its direction and drive growth.”

An Employee Ownership Trust has been formed which will hold 90% of the shares on behalf of the employees. The process was managed by 4-consulting, with legal services provided by Blackadders and accountancy support from Mann Judd Gordon.

If you have a question or you want to talk about how employee ownership can help you, please get in touch with us here using the ‘expert support’ option.

GLASGOW CARE FIRM ASPIRE STRENGTHENS COMPANY ETHOS WITH EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP

Glasgow-based care provider Aspire recently joined the growing number of employee-owned businesses in Scotland, with 186 social care employees across the organisation being given a stake in the business.

Aspire provides a range of services including Self-Directed Support, Intensive/Complex Home Care, Homelessness Emergency Accommodation and Resettlement, Alcohol-Related Brain Injuries Housing Support, Care at Home, Criminal Justice and Young Care Leavers Services. Since 2011 Aspire has annually won a raft of Scottish Care National Awards.

Aspire was established in 2002 by Peter Millar, who has over 47 years’ experience in social work and community care including planning, commissioning, senior management, and developing and delivering services within Local Authorities and the NHS in Scotland.  We caught up with Peter to hear more about his decision to sell the company to its staff.

Portrait of Aspire Chief Executive Peter Millar.

“Employee ownership is wholly consistent with Aspire’s ethos and values.  We are all about empowering people to achieve a better life and a more self-directed and optimistic future. Whilst that approach fundamentally underpins our work with the individuals we have the privilege of working alongside and supporting in the community, it is also highly applicable to our relationship with our employees. 

Employee Ownership enables us to elevate the status of our employees, enhance their opportunities to be more involved in contributing to the growth and development of Aspire, and allows all of those employees to equitably share the benefits from Aspire’s future successes.

“Employee Ownership therefore provides Aspire with a stronger, more inclusive, collaborative and equitable model. In addition to giving all employees a real stake in the organisation, it also secures Aspire’s position as a high quality provider of social care services in Scotland and an organisation that consistently makes a positive difference to individuals’ lives and to their local communities.

“I’m delighted that Aspire Housing and Personal Development Services is in the hands of our committed and highly talented team who have been overwhelmingly positive about this important development for our organisation and are now even more enthusiastic about it. We have a superb senior management team and excellent employee trustees and staff and we are all really excited about the future.”

Staff at Aspire

Some of the Aspire team

Aspire now has a Trust board which includes two elected employee trustees, Euan Jessiman and Cameron Gilchrist.

Cameron added: “On behalf of the whole team, I’d like to give a huge thanks to Peter for giving us the amazing opportunity to share the ownership of Aspire – which has such a positive impact on so many lives – and there’s something very meaningful, for both the whole team and the people we support, in becoming employee owned.”

If you have a question or you want to talk about how employee ownership can help you, please get in touch with us here using the ‘expert support’ option.

SECURING THE FUTURE OF FAMILY BUSINESSES

For family businesses, planning for succession is one of the biggest challenges they will face and an effective succession solution is critical to their long-term success. While research indicates that approximately 73% of family businesses want to keep the business in the family, this isn’t always possible. Only 12% of family-owned businesses in Scotland are passed down to the second generation and just 7% remain in the family for three generations or more. Despite these figures, less than half of Scotland’s family-owned businesses have a succession plan in place.

Glen Dott, an employee ownership adviser at Co-operative Development Scotland, discusses some of the issues family businesses need to consider when looking at their succession options, and why employee ownership can sometimes be the most effective solution.

Glen Dott

“Sometimes family business owners can bury their heads when it comes to the daunting task of planning for their exit. Yet, it is a vital decision which ultimately determines the company’s future. Rather than viewing it as a necessary evil, business owners should start to recognise succession planning as a potential opportunity for their company to evolve and grow.

“Employee ownership is one solution which offers these opportunities and can be an excellent fit for family businesses for a number of reasons. First of all, it enables the vendor to exit on their terms, giving them a fair price and allowing them substantial control over the process.

“Secondly, it roots the business in its community, keeping skills in the area and retaining jobs locally for workforces that are often long-serving and loyal. Thirdly, by handing control over to those who know it best, the values and ethos on which the company was founded, frequently at the heart of family-run businesses, can be preserved for generations to come.

“Finally, evidence demonstrates that employee-owned companies benefit from a more engaged workforce, which can boost productivity, encourage innovation, and ultimately drive growth and profitability. It can be encouraging and comforting for founders to feel that the businesses they have spent years of their lives building with their families will continue to go from strength-to-strength into the future, and that the employees will reap the rewards of this. 

The past couple of years have seen family-owned businesses including Auchrannie leisure resort in Arran, Harvey Maps in Doune, North Berwick-based Jerba Campervans and Beauly institution The Priory Hotel all move to employee ownership after recognising the suitability of the model as a succession solution and its potential for driving future business success. We expect take-up of the model will continue to accelerate in future years, as more and more businesses throughout Scotland’s business community become aware of the benefits.

The Priory Hotel staff

The Priory Hotel team

Succession planning should not be overlooked and family business owners looking for a smooth exit which secures the best possible future for their business should seek professional advice on their options at an early stage.”

To learn more about EO and whether it could be right for your business, check out our resources page, listen to our podcast or get in touch with us here using the ‘expert support’ option.

EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP IN THE CARE SECTOR

There are around 110 employee-owned companies operating, with approximately 7,500 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of around £950 million. In recent years, the model has proved particularly popular with businesses operating in the care sector. Clare Alexander, head of Co-operative Development Scotland, shares their stories and explores why they are drawn to employee ownership.
11/12/15 - 15112301 - SCOTTISH ENTERPRISE    GLASGOW    Claire Alexander

Employee ownership has consistently shown to improve staff engagement and wellbeing, which in the care sector, leads to better patient experience and outcomes. As owners, employees also have a say in how the business is run, and clients and their families are reassured that the business will remain rooted in the area and be run for the benefit of local people.

These benefits are clearly demonstrated by Highland Home Carers, Stewartry Care, Paramount Care, Caledonia Social Care, and Aspire Housing and Personal Development Services.

Highland Home Carers (HHC) was founded in 1994 and became employee-owned in 2004.  Since then, the business has grown to become one of the largest independent providers of home care and support services in Scotland with over 500 staff.

The company aims to deliver the highest possible standards of care, enabling people in the Highlands to remain in their homes and in their local communities for as long as possible.  Moving into employee-ownership has ensured that HHC’s unique ethos was secure and provided a platform for growth.

Stewartry Care

Dumfries and Galloway-based Stewartry Care also became an employee owned company in 2004. Turnover increased by 16% in the first year and profitability by 39% and the company has continued to grow. Employees benefit from being informed on performance and having a say, with the opportunity to stand for election as a Director or Trustee of the company. The firm was awarded Care at Home Provider of the Year in the Scottish Care Awards 2018, with clients benefiting from a highly motivated care team.

Paramount Care, set up in 2000 by nurse Ruth Smyth who had a vision of a personalised care service that placed people at its heart, became employee-owned in 2017. It operates throughout Fife, Tayside, Perthshire and Clackmannanshire, delivering a range of services within people’s homes and within residential care homes for the public and private sectors.

Paramount was founded with the aim of providing a personal and approachable care service, where clients or employees wouldn’t have to call bases in locations like London or Birmingham whenever they had a query. Its aim was to provide a high quality of care with close and trusting relationships between carers and clients. Ruth felt that these qualities, which set Paramount apart from other care firms, could be compromised if it was bought over by one of them.

By selling it to an Employee Ownership Trust, Paramount Care continues to operate as an independent company rooted in the local area, run by people who care about it.

Caledonia Social Care, management and staff. L-R - Ross Wilson, Practice Team Leader; Carol Park, Administrator; Stuart Robertson, Regional Manager; Margaret Paterson, Managing Director; Derek Oliver, Regional Manager; Vicky Hoolihan, Corporate Services Administrator; Kenny Nicholson, HR Leader Taken 27-06-17

Caledonia Social Care

Caledonia Social Care (CSC) delivers care at home services throughout central Scotland and launched as an employee-owned enterprise on EO Day 2017 (30 June).

The launch of CSC represented a real boost to Scotland’s care sector, with an empowered workforce of 150 employee owners committed to providing an exceptional level of care to 480 clients. The firm benefits from high levels of colleague engagement, fair employment practices and lower staff turnover which helps lead to better outcomes for staff and service users.

The most recent care provider in Scotland to become employee-owned is Aspire Housing and Personal Development Services, which made the move in June 2019 with 186 social care employees becoming owners.

Staff at Aspire

Staff at Aspire

Aspire is passionate about empowering the individuals it supports to achieve a better life and a more self-directed and optimistic future, and employee ownership was an effective way to demonstrate this commitment to its employees as well. It enhances their opportunities to be more involved in contributing to the growth and development of the business, and allows them to equitably share the benefits from Aspire’s future successes.

In a sector where attracting and retaining the best people can have such a significant impact on performance, it’s easy to see why a business model which motivates, empowers and rewards them stands out. We look forward to more care providers recognising the benefits of the model and supporting them to become employee-owned in the future.

To learn more about EO and whether it could be right for your business, check out our resources page, listen to our podcast or get in touch with us here using the ‘expert support’ option.

ENGINEERING A SMOOTH TRANSFER TO EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP

Precision engineering firm GS Brown, based in Fife, was established by 1974 by tool maker George Brown, who handed the reigns to his sons Des and Mike following his retirement. When the brothers were considering their own retirement, they wanted to ensure the company would continue to operate successfully and provide employment for its loyal staff, many of whom are local and long-serving. In May 2019, the firm became employee-owned, with 70% of its shares being held in an employee ownership trust.

We caught up with Des, who is Managing Director at GS brown, to hear more about their decision to sell the company to staff.

The GS Brown Precision Engineers Ltd team

The GS Brown Precision Engineers Ltd team

“As a family business with a well-established, close-knit team, it was really important for us to find a succession solution which was a good fit for us. Our priority was to enable GS Brown to continue operating without disruption, and to secure its future and the jobs of our staff. Around 70% of the firm’s workforce have had long service with it and the team includes families, with fathers and sons amongst the employees.

“If an external buyer had taken over the company, there would have been no guarantee of our manufacturing plant remaining here, where it was established, in the long-term.

“I first learned about employee ownership at a CEED (Centre for Engineering Education and Development) conference in the spring of 2018.  Realising that the model offered a great deal of potential and the opportunity to pass control of GS Brown over to those who know it best, I sought out further information.

“We were given initial support and guidance by Fife Enterprise, followed by in-depth insight from Co-operative Development Scotland and Ownership Associates, which enabled us to fully consider the merits of employee ownership and consult with our staff. The process was then initiated in November 2018. 

“We’re very pleased that the transition to employee ownership has all been relatively straightforward – the business has just carried on operating seamlessly.  GS Brown is now in a very strong position for the team to build on its success and reputation; we believe the company has a great future ahead and employee ownership is good news for everyone involved with it.

GS Brown’s transition to employee ownership was supported by Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) and Ownership Associates. Legal services for the transfer were provided by Thorntons Solicitors whilst EQ Chartered Accountants provided financial services.

If you have a question or you want to talk about how employee ownership can help you, please get in touch with us here using the ‘expert support’ option.

FIVE COMMON EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP MYTHS DISPELLED

Awareness of the many benefits of employee ownership continues to grow in Scotland, with uptake of the business model also increasing. However, there are a number of misconceptions around the model which can ultimately deter business owners considering employee ownership.

Here, Clare Alexander, Head of Co-operative Development Scotland, addresses five of the most common myths about employee ownership.

11/12/15 - 15112301 - SCOTTISH ENTERPRISE    GLASGOW    Claire Alexander

Claire Alexander

Myth 1: The process of becoming employee owned is a complex transaction

“While additional elements such as setting up a trust are required, an employee ownership transaction tends to be more collaborative than a standard business sale as everyone’s interests are aligned.  All parties want what is best for the business and its workforce, therefore less time and resources are spent resolving potential conflicts and the transaction is typically completed more efficiently.

“Furthermore, CDS offers a wealth of advice through its expert advisors, who can guide business owners through any perceived complexities throughout the employee ownership process.”

Myth 2: Employees cannot afford to make the investment

“Typically, when a business becomes employee owned, the majority of shares are bought on behalf of the employees by an Employee Ownership Trust. This is usually financed by contributions from the company itself, or a loan that is then paid back by the company. Employees don’t carry any personal liability for the debt assumed by the company in an employee buyout. Furthermore, when the trust pays out bonuses the first £3,600 is free from income tax, so is very tax efficient for employees.

“In some cases, employees also have the opportunity to invest their own money in company shares. However, this is a relatively small amount of the share capital, is usually voluntary, and will likely be undertaken using one of the HMRC recognised tax effective schemes.”

Myth 3: Employee ownership is only an option for retiring family business owners or entrepreneurs with no heir

“While this can be a common reason behind employee ownership, some owners may opt for the model despite having a suitable successor in order to reward the loyalty of staff and root the business in the local area. The seller may trigger an employee buyout a long time before they intend to withdraw from the company, remaining involved in the day to day running of the business for years before retiring.

“An increasing number of companies are choosing employee ownership as a means to attract, retain and reward staff”.

Myth 4: The vendor will have to sell their business at a lower price

“As they don’t have to negotiate with another business, the seller holds a great deal of control over the process. There is no reason that a carefully considered employee buy-out can’t deliver a fair price in line with the company’s market value. Indeed, when the tax advantages are considered, many sellers believe that they achieved a better deal when selling to an Employee Ownership Trust, than they would have achieved by pursuing a trade sale.

“With increasing number of businesses choosing employee ownership, specialist finance is now becoming available. Mainstream providers, like the banks, are also becoming more aware and supportive of the model.”

Myth 5: Employees will be more interested in keeping company profits for themselves than investing in the long-term health of the business

“Employees are well informed and understand the importance of investing in the businesses for the long-term. Decisions on bonus and share distributions are carefully considered in this context.

“Evidence shows that priority is given to investment in businesses’ long term success, for example in purchasing new equipment to improve efficiency while bonus and dividend payments being paid at a realistic level.”

To learn more about EO and whether it could be right for your business, check out our resources page, listen to our podcast or get in touch with us here using the ‘expert support’ option.

SHETLAND LIFE-SCIENCES CONSULTANCY BECOMES EMPLOYEE-OWNED

Shetland-based ESPL Regulatory Consulting (ESPL), is a unique business which provides specialist regulatory services to the life sciences and pharmaceutical / medical device industries. When a new medicine or a medical device is developed, the scientific data from laboratory studies and clinical trials needs to be reviewed, compiled and submitted to regulatory authorities around the world.  ESPL’s team of highly-experienced medical and regulatory professionals and scientists define strategies and complete these activities on behalf of its clients. One of the most experienced independent specialist consultancies in its field, it operates in throughout the UK, across the EU, and in North America and Australia.

In considering their long-term succession options, founders Helen, Tony, and Chris Erwood, were keen to identify a solution that would allow the business to continue to thrive and remain rooted in Scotland.  We caught up with Dr Helen Erwood to learn more about the company’s decision to sell to employees.

The ESPL Regulatory Consulting team at their Shetland location. Picture L-R: Holly Hunter, Diane Wood, Anna Watt, Helen Erwood, Tony Erwood.  Taken 29-03-2018.

The ESPL Regulatory Consulting team

It’s approaching time for control of the business to be handed over to the next generation.  We have built up a successful business from our Shetland base and we couldn’t have done that without the considerable talents and efforts of our team.  One of our core values is collaboration, and the employee ownership model reinforces that.

“It is enables control of the business to be passed onto the ESPL team who can protect the consultancy’s best interests and ensure the outstanding reputation it has earned within its specialist sectors will be maintained.

“We’re hugely thankful for the support we have received throughout the transfer, including the grant for legal costs provided by Highlands & Islands Enterprise, legal advice given by Blackadders LLP, and the assistance offered throughout the process by Ownership Associates.

“We are looking forward to the company’s continued growth under its new ownership model.”

If you have a question or you want to talk about how employee ownership can help you, please get in touch with us here using the ‘expert support’ option.

EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP AND CO-OPERATIVES IN SCOTLAND – A TEN YEAR TRANSFORMATION

By Sarah Deas

11/12/15 - 15112301 - SCOTTISH ENTERPRISEGLASGOWSarah Deas

It is ten years since I took up my role as director at Co-operative Development Scotland. As someone who is passionate about creating a progressive economy – one that delivers for people and planet – it has been a real privilege to lead CDS over the past decade. As I prepare to move on, I’ve been reflecting on what we’ve achieved.

Initially on the edge of the economic development agenda, co-operative models have shifted firmly to the mainstream. Thousands of businesses and individuals have benefited from the 290 consortium co-operatives, community co-operatives and employee-owned businesses established in Scotland over the past ten years.  We have seen a fivefold increase in employee ownership since we started promoting the model and the pace of take-up is accelerating.

This growth has led to Scotland being viewed as a pioneer in co-operative development, with many aspiring to echo our approach. Over the years, I have been invited to speak at a range of international events and forums, including in the co-operative heartlands of Italy and Spain. A true recognition of our success.

In 2018, the Ownership Effect Inquiry, an independent review into employee ownership’s impact on the economy, recommended that the UK Government replicate “Scotland’s successful scheme that has delivered a tenfold return on investment for every £1 devoted to on-the-ground support.”

Some of Scotland's consortium co-operatives, community co-operatives and employee-owned businesses

Some of Scotland’s consortium co-operatives, community co-operatives and employee-owned businesses

There are a number of reasons behind Scotland’s success in this area. We’ve had exemplary support from the Scottish Government, which recognises the key role that co-operative models can play in delivering its economic goal of Inclusive Growth – a fairer economy which distributes wealth more widely and addresses inequalities.

An encouraging amount of cross party support has also led to increased dialogue around the models, with parliamentary debates on the importance of co-operatives and employee ownership to the Scottish economy. I have frequently been invited to contribute to meetings of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee (and its predecessors), where I’ve shared some of Scotland’s many success stories as evidence of the wider economic and societal benefits of co-operative working, bringing these to the forefront of the economic agenda.

The Scottish Government’s commitment to promoting co-operative models was further demonstrated with last year’s launch of ‘Scotland for EO’, an industry leadership group co-chaired by Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills. Led by industry working in partnership with the public sector, it has a championing, influencing and facilitating role which aims to build and strengthen Scotland’s EO community. ‘Scotland for EO’ is built on the immense pride and passion displayed by Scotland’s employee owned businesses in endorsing the model over the years – hugely valued support which has been vital in effecting wider change.

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The launch of Scotland for EO at the employee-owned Auchrannie resort in Arran last year

Also key to the surge in awareness of co-operatives is the work of a dedicated team here at CDS, whose commitment and approach to promoting the models has been instrumental to their growth. From raising awareness among professional advisors to providing businesses with advice and financial support, the team is passionate to drive momentum. With the ongoing support of our colleagues at Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Business Gateway, we have continued to attract increasing demand for our services, and as I move on, there is a strong pipeline of businesses looking to adopt co-operative models, particularly EO.

While progress has been significant, there remains work to be done to reinforce the benefits of co-operative models, and the route they offer to a more equal economy. As I hand over the reins to my successor Clare Alexander, I feel very positive that our activity over the past ten years has paved the way for continued change.

With a wealth of experience in driving better business through workplace innovation, Clare is ideally positioned to fully maximise the opportunities, and further drive the uptake of co-operative models in line with the Scottish Government’s Inclusive Growth Strategy. With her belief that “business leaders should be predisposed to see the power of their people”, her values are synonymous with those of ‘Scotland for EO’. Her position on the board will see her working towards the group’s ambitious goals of increasing the number of employee-owned businesses in Scotland to 500 by 2030, and by 2040 to have created the best environment for EO businesses to thrive with Scotland having the highest density of EO businesses in the economy as a consequence.

Meanwhile, I plan to continue to promote inclusive approaches through the Wellbeing Economy Alliance – a new global collaboration of organisations, movements and individuals working together to change the economic system to one that delivers human and ecological wellbeing. I look forward to building on what we’ve achieved over the past ten years and continuing to promote co-operative and employee ownership models as a way of achieving a fair and inclusive society.