Author Archives: Helen Dickson

Introduction to community co-operatives

As our thoughts turn to what our economy will look like post COVID-19, there are calls not to return to business as usual. There is an opportunity to create a fairer and more democratic alternative to what we’ve had in the past and community wealth building and co-operative business models will play a key role in that.
Suzanne OrchardIn our latest blog, we catch up with Suzanne Orchard, our specialist advisor for co-operatives to find out more about community co-operatives and why communities in Scotland are turning to this model to both safeguard vital local assets but also to generate economic benefit for the areas they live in.

What is a community co-operative?

A community co-operative is a type of community enterprise which operates primarily for the benefit of the local community.

Sometimes people from a community will come together to save a valuable local business or amenity facing closure, often the community shop or pub. It could also be an essential local facility facing closure and we have had an example of a community in Scotland who used the model to save their local school (Strontian Primary School). There are also examples of developing a business or project that offers fresh economic, social and environmental benefits such as Glenwyvis Distillery.

How are community co-operatives run?

Community co-operatives are controlled by their members – individuals from the local community who have invested in the enterprise through the purchase of community shares. All members have an equal say in decision making, regardless of how much they have invested. The profits may be invested back into the business or distributed among members but one of the defining characteristics is that the business is sustainable and does not extract large amounts of profit.

The survival rate of co-operatives indicate how well these models can work. Overall – 80% of new co-operatives are still trading after five years compared to 44% of new companies (Sources: comparing Office for National Statistics data with Co-ops UK’s datasets). Community shops and pubs in particular do very well with a survival rate of 94% and 100% respectively (Source Plunket foundation). The importance of local shops has been highlighted by the current COVID-19 crisis. With local shops proving vital lifelines to their community, it is anticipated that interest in community co-operatives will continue to grow if these amenities are deemed to be at risk.

What support is available?

If you are interested in setting up a community co-operative, Co-operative Development Scotland can provide support to help you talk through your ideas and decide the best way forward at the initial stages. We provide support to setup a community benefit society if you decide this is the right model for your community enterprise but we work with a number of partners including Community Shares Scotland, the Plunket Foundation and Co-operatives UK to help you access the support and expertise you need which ever model you opt for.

To find out more about our support for community visit our website


Employee ownership in Scotland continues to flourish

Although the effects of COVID-19 are still being felt across the globe, there are good news stories coming through and in our new blog article Clare Alexander, head of Co-operative Development Scotland discusses these in more detail along with what is happening in the employee ownership sector.

AquascotI was delighted to hear how well the sector is responding to the COVID-19 crisis with staff from employee-owned Collective Architecture printing PPE parts for the NHS on 3D printers and Alness based employee-owned Aquascot donating fresh fish to vulnerable members of their community as well as sourcing materials used to make PPE for healthcare workers.

It was also a tremendous month for awards and award nominations.

EmployQA-logo-print_international_trade-SmallGray-300x300ee-owned Woollard & Henry Ltd. were awarded the prestigious business accolade of Queens Award for International Trade 2020. This was the second time they have achieved this honour and demonstrates the continued success of employee owners who embrace new opportunities, adapt and learn the new skills necessary to complement their new product and service offerings.

I was pleased to see employee-owned businesses recognised in this year’s IoD Scotland Director of the Year Awards. Congratulations to Colin Wade from Chemco International who is a finalist in the International category and to Niall MacDonald previously with Aquascot who is a finalist in 2 categories; Large Business and Regional Director for Highlands & Islands. Good luck for September!

Finally, I was thrilled to see the results of the RM2 Partnership employee ownership trust (EOT) Survey 2020 which showed not only a substantial growth in EOTs for 2019, to a total of 314 new live EOTs since the introduction of the Finance Act 2014 but also that Scotland is continuing to punch above its weight in relation to EOT companies.  Scotland has around 5% of the UK business market but over 15% of the EOT market.

EOT survey 2020

To learn more about employee ownership 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.

A Message From Co-operative Development Scotland

As we feel the unprecedented effects of COVID-19, the team at Co-operative Development Scotland want to offer our support in this incredibly difficult time to our clients.

The changes we have seen to every aspect of our lives at the moment may be overwhelming, but we would like to do what we can to help you with the immediate challenges your business or co-operative may be facing by signposting to the network of support available from the government and key partners. Links and details about support available are listed below.

We are part of Scottish Enterprise who are developing a single, joined up response across Scotland’s enterprise agencies. The agencies, Business Gateway Services and local authorities are coordinating the response alongside the Scottish and UK Governments, business organisations and industry bodies. To access the most up to date guidance and support, please visit:

Scottish Government Find Business Support Website 

We would also recommend you sign up for regular updates from this website.

Support for Employee Owned Businesses

Our partners at the Employee Ownership Association are providing tailored support to employee-owned businesses in relation to the impact of COVID-19. They have created a hub detailing support and are hosting regular webinars addressing specific business needs:


Support for Co-ops

Co-operatives UK are also working to provide tailored support for co-operatives. Their advice pages collate a range of practical guides and guidance for co‑ops including a dedicated HR section. They are also hosting regular webinars which can be accessed through the same pages.

Co-operatives UK Advice Pages

Support for Community Co-ops

The Third Sector Resilience Fund is a £20m emergency fund for charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations working in Scotland. The fund will support organisations that already deliver services and products but find themselves in financial difficulties directly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This fund may be accessed by some community co-ops:

Third Sector Resilience Fund

Kind regards.

Co-operative Development Scotland

Covid-19 business support