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Established in 1878, Dyce-based manufacturer Woollard and Henry initially began operating in the papermaking industry. The company developed a notable portfolio of paper forming products such as dandy rolls, the cylindrical mechanism used for imprinting watermarks in paper, and was renowned in the industry for its quality, reliability and skill. However, in the early 2000s, Scotland’s once-thriving paper sector was in decline. Woollard and Henry was struggling and, unable to find a buyer, the family owners were preparing to shut it down. Employee ownership was raised as a potential solution, and with strong support from an eager workforce, an employee buyout was completed in 2002.

We caught up with managing director Fred Bowden to hear about the company’s success since.

“When the prospect of an employee buyout was first raised back in 2002, there were around 20 staff, all of whom saw a future for Woollard and Henry and the unique skills and expertise it could offer. They fully embraced the opportunity, being very supportive of the move to employee ownership and passionate about keeping the business going.

“The workforce’s newly-held stake in the business helped drive an overwhelming response to the company’s need to diversify. Taking advantage of our location in an oil and gas stronghold, it was recognised that our core skills of high-end fabrication and engineering could be transferred to the energy sector. We adapted our strategy accordingly, with the fabrication of personnel transfer vessels for the offshore energy markets in addition to its range of papermaking and watermarking equipment.

Woollard and Henry, Dyce, Aberdeen, 16/08/2012 Woollard and Henry team with managing director Fred Bowden (front) - pictured with 'Frogs' - a crane-assisted personnel transfer pod for oil and gas industry platforms. Photography for Scottish Enterprise / Cooperative Development Scotland from:  Colin Hattersley Photography - - - 07974 957 388

Woollard and Henry team with managing director Fred Bowden pictured with ‘Frogs’ – a crane-assisted personnel transfer pod for oil and gas industry platforms.

“After an initial difficult few years, Woollard and Henry has continued to thrive. We involve the employees in all of the major decisions about the running of the business, and their personal investment in the company’s performance has helped develop a culture of constant innovation. We now employ 64 people and operate from five locations across the globe, going from almost zero international trade to exporting 60% of our output. We have also recently won our biggest contract to date, which will see our turnover increase to over £10million this year.”

If you would like to learn more about how employee ownership could benefit your business, please get in touch to arrange a chat with one of our expert advisers.


Dalbeattie-based care at home provider Stewartry Care became an employee-owned company in 2004.  It has more than 100 staff providing care at home services across Dumfries & Galloway.  In the first year of employee ownership its turnover increased by 16% and profitability by 39%.  Since then the company has continued to flourish, with new services including a Foot Care and a Responder Service supporting over 400 individuals.

We caught up with Stewartry Care manager Debbie Cochrane to find out more about the company and its recent successes.

“We believe that employee ownership is good for everyone involved in the company.  Our employees are happy at work which is demonstrated by our staff recruitment and retention records.  The staff benefit from being able to influence the direction of the company, being informed on performance and having the opportunity to stand for election as a director or trustee of the company. Our clients also benefit from having a highly motivated team, knowing that their care team is empowered and the reassurance that the company will remain locally owned and run for the benefit of local people.

“We have a successful business model that works well for us, which is evidenced by the fact we’ve just won the Scotland’s Care at Home Provider of the Year award at the Scottish Care Awards in Glasgow.”

The awards recognise the great work undertaken by organisations and staff who work in care at home and housing support services. The company has also just been awarded Outstanding Social Enterprise at the Dumfries & Galloway Business Awards.

Stewartry Care

The Stewartry Care team at the Dumfries and Galloway Business Awards

Debbie continued: “I’m incredibly proud to manage such an amazing team; these awards recognise all their hard work.

“Our challenge is to stay at the top. We see ourselves as part of the community and we have an important role to play to support people who need our services. In addition to our recent award wins, we’ve been celebrating receiving top marks from the Care Inspectorate.  We were given a rating of six following an unannounced inspection – the highest mark possible.We were thrilled with the grading and with the feedback we get from our service users. This is a fantastic achievement by our employees and we’ll all work together to find ways to retain the ratings and improve what we do for the people of Dumfries and Galloway.”


We caught up with Rod Hutchison, a partner at law firm Ledingham Chalmers, to find out why he thinks employee ownership could be a great succession option.


Rod Hutchison, partner at Ledingham Chalmers

Succession is an issue that many business owners choose to ignore, but it’s not one that’ll go away.

Bearing in mind planning and preparation make for a painless succession process, it is important shareholders take the time to properly explore exit routes, and there are a number of options on the table.

Many business owners avoid the topic because they can’t bear the thought of someone else owning their business.  And that’s understandable.

Entrepreneurs invest their time, their energy and their expertise into their company, so it can be difficult to think about seeing another name over their door. The trade sale can mean relocation, and for many business owners, there’s a reluctance to jeopardise the employment of a loyal workforce.

I attended a Scottish Enterprise-hosted seminar recently that presented a different kind of exit that could be the solution these business owners are looking for: the employee ownership trust (EOT).

The speaker was tax specialist Graeme Nuttall, author of the Nuttall Review of Employee Ownership, which was prepared as an independent review for the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).

Graeme Nuttall

Graeme Nuttall, author of the Nuttall Review of Employee Ownership

Graeme is responsible for the introduction of the EOT, ushered in with the Finance Act of 2014, and set up specifically for companies where a significant shareholding is held in the interests of the employees.

The aim is to allow owners to sell the business to their employees, putting the company into the hands of those who often know it best: those inside the firm.

In this way, business continues as usual.  Relationships are maintained and jobs are protected for as long as the business continues to flourish.

What’s more, there’s mounting evidence businesses tend to outperform conventionally-structured firms on a range of different factors including productivity, profitability, customer satisfaction, innovation and employee health and happiness.EOTrust1 LinkedIn preview dimensions

For example, Matrix Evidence’s Employee Ownership Association-commissioned research said this model can improve employee satisfaction, innovation and productivity (with a tailored approach likely to be most successful).

Plus, the association’s own impact report said the growth rate of employee-owned businesses was 50% higher than the UK economy in 2012.

Tax incentive

The government introduced a tax incentive to promote the take up of EOTs.  If a business owner sells a controlling interest in their company to its employees, then that transaction is exempt from capital gains tax, subject to certain conditions being met.

The company functions like any other private business: a board of directors is still responsible for driving the success of the company, and management continues to run the organisation.

However, the shares are generally held in the EOT on behalf of the company’s employees, rather than directly by the employees themselves.

The seller can, and often does, remain involved in the company for a period to ensure a smooth transition to employee ownership.

The path to ownership

The path to employee ownership can be quite straightforward and, as these transactions don’t have the adversity you sometimes find in trade sales, they can be a smoother and often a more collaborative deal.

And, as the parties involved are internal, there is no need to open up company to external scrutiny. 

It was interesting to hear from Sarah Deas of Scottish Enterprise who described how the number of employee-owned businesses headquartered in Scotland is just about to pass the 100 mark: a threefold increase over the past three years.

And with the number of employee owned firms in the UK sitting at around 300, Scotland is certainly punching well above its weight.

Employee ownership means that companies remain local, sustaining jobs and skills, and both Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise offer financial support and signposting to business owners looking to explore this further.

EOTrust5 LinkedIn preview dimensions

As the baby boomer generation approaches retirement age, it’s easy to see why employee ownership is gaining traction as a succession solution —

  • The owner achieves the exit they want at a price they are happy with
  • The employees have a stake in ensuring the company’s future prosperity
  • It’s business as usual for customers and suppliers

And because the trust can exist for the long term, the issue of business success is resolved for the future.

Winners all round.


Employees of Glasgow-based Mediascape were delighted to hear that they are to become the owners of the company in a move which sees the majority of the shareholding transfer into an Employee Ownership Trust.  Angus and Shona Knight, owners of Mediascape, announced their plans at a meeting of all employees. The couple had considered a number of options and rejected several approaches to buy the company.

Mediascape designs, supplies, installs and maintains audio-visual and videoconferencing systems working with an impressive client list that includes the University of Glasgow, Strathclyde University, St. Andrews University, Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland as well as many prestigious private and public sector clients. The company was set up in December 2003 and started trading in January 2004 with four members of staff. Turnover for this year is likely to be in excess of £5m, the company’s best trading year yet. There are now 24 employees.

We spoke to the team about their experience of transitioning to employee ownership.

Mediascape, Glasgow, 01/12/2017.  Mediascape staff, with Angus and Shona Knight (front). Photography from: Colin Hattersley Photography - - - 07974 957 388.

The Mediascape team with founders Angus and Shona Knight at the front.

Shona said:  “Too often a company is sold and before long, it disappears and the jobs go.  We couldn’t do that. We have a very talented team of people at Mediascape who have shown such loyalty to Angus and I over the years.  It was time for us to recognise that loyalty.”

Angus commented: “One of the attractions of choosing this path is that there will be continuity for Mediascape customers and staff. Shona and I plan to stay on for the next few years to ensure a smooth handover and allow the management team time to get to grips with running the business.  We’re retaining a 20% stake in the business to demonstrate our commitment to the staff that we’re still part of the show.”

Lee Ferrie, one of the first employees of Mediascape and now engineering manager, added:  “Mediascape is a great company to work for. I guess we were all a bit concerned about what would happen when Angus and Shona decided it was time to move on. Now, our future is in our hands and it’s our job to continue the company’s success. It’s an exciting opportunity and we’re all up for the challenge.”


North Berwick-based Jerba Campervans specialises in converting Volkswagen Transporter vans into luxury campervans.  Founded in 2006 by husband and wife team Simon Poole and Catherine Brookes, the company carries out internal layout conversions on the iconic brand’s VW Transporter T6 model, offering six standard configurations to meet a range of different needs. Having spent long periods of time travelling in a VW camper, both as a couple and later as a family of five, Simon and Catherine use their experience to identify optimum layouts and features, working with a highly-skilled team to make their designs a reality.

In January this year, Jerba announced it had completed its transition to become an employee-owned business, with 15 members of staff becoming owners.  An Employee Ownership Trust has been formed and holds 100% of the shares on behalf of the employees.

Jerba is one of the few official Volkswagen registered vehicle body builders for the Transporter T6, demonstrating diligent compliance with a wide range of key areas. By transferring their shares to an Employee Ownership Trust, Simon and Catherine have also helped to ensure that the requirement for this specialist knowledge and skillset is anchored in the local area. 

We spoke to Simon to find out more. 

Jerba Campervans smaller

The Jerba Campervans team

“The matter of succession had originally been in the back of our minds as something we would need to properly consider in around five years’ time, however, when we started exploring employee ownership as a potential solution, we were so sold on the benefits that we decided to make the transition sooner rather than later.

“Employee ownership is an excellent business model which benefits everyone. Catherine and I can continue with our day to day roles in the business for as long as we need to, with the knowledge that the future is taken care of, while our employees are given a stake in the business and a say in how it is run. Not only do we envisage this driving job satisfaction, productivity and innovation, it ensures that the business’ unique ethos is preserved.

“We established Jerba following a decade of owning and hiring campervans all over the world and finding that the layout could be significantly improved to suit our specific needs. Our success lies in our extensive first-hand experience, insights from which have been passed on to our team. We felt that this intimate approach and the niche upon which the business was founded could be lost if Jerba was sold to another business.

“Protecting jobs was also an extremely important factor in our decision. Many employees have been with us for between five and ten years and have played a vital role in the growth and success of Jerba Campervans. Moving into employee ownership gives job certainty to everyone who works here and enables them to have proper control of their future.  The staff are very excited about the opportunities it will bring for the future growth of the business.”

If you would like to learn more about how employee ownership could benefit your business, please get in touch to arrange a chat with one of our expert advisers.


Graeme Nuttall OBE, partner at law firm Fieldfisher and author of the influential Nuttall Review of Employee Ownership, is the UK’s leading legal expert in employee ownership. 

We spoke to Graeme to find out why Scotland is ahead of the rest of the UK in encouraging employee ownership. 

Graeme Nuttall

Selling a business to employees used to be a rare event. Now every month we hear of another company or companies becoming employee-owned.  Recently, Scotland has seen the Auchrannie Hotel in Arran, North Berwick campervan conversion specialist Jerba Campervans, audiovisual company Mediascape in Glasgow and Perth-based engineering firm Merlin ERD all become employee-owned.  But why this surge in interest amongst Scottish businesses?

I am a partner with European law firm Fieldfisher. In 2012 I took on a part-time voluntary role as the UK Government’s independent adviser on employee ownership. I produced the Nuttall Review of Employee Ownership, which articulated the benefits of employee ownership and identified what was required to deliver more employee-owned firms in the economy, ultimately paving the way for the Employee Ownership Trust (EOT). Legislation introduced in 2014 brought in tax benefits for business owners selling to an EOT and also to employees within EOT owned companies.

Since then, employee ownership in the UK has continued to grow, particularly in Scotland, where I recently met with the Scottish EO adviser community to share insights on the notable growth of the model’s popularity In Scotland.

The Nuttall Review definition is that employee ownership exists when employees are able to participate through a meaningful and significant stake in their business, and this ownership stake is underpinned by organisational structures that ensure employee engagement. A feature of many employee-owned organisations is an element of trust ownership of shares.  The EOT is designed to hold shares long term on behalf of all employees. The main benefits of trust ownership are that employees of the business know that the shares in the trust are held on a permanent basis on their behalf; and have a collective voice, through the trustee of that trust, in how the company is owned and governed.

If a business owner sells a controlling interest in the company to an EOT, the sale proceeds can be completely exempt from capital gains tax, subject to certain conditions being met.  Employees in firms with majority EOT ownership can benefit from an annual income tax free bonus up to a threshold of £3,600.

The introduction of these tax incentives was obviously a game changer.  No-one goes into employee ownership just to take advantage of tax breaks. What the EOT legislation did is recognise the benefits employee ownership brings to the economy and get these more widely known.

It is estimated there are currently at least 300 employee-owned firms in the UK and almost one third of these are Scottish based firms. These firms come from diverse sectors; professional services, health and social care, manufacturing and construction.  Employee ownership can be found in all business sectors; indeed, it is now difficult to identify sectors where there are no examples of employee-owned companies.

EBO collage

Clockwise from top left – Auchrannie, Jerba Campervans, Mediascape and Merlin ERD have recently joined Scotland’s growing number of EO businesses

But why is uptake in Scotland is significantly higher than the rest of the UK?

I believe it comes down to two factors. The Nuttall Review identified two key obstacles to the wider adoption of employee ownership: lack of awareness and lack of practical support. Co-operative Development Scotland has undertaken some sterling work with advisers, evidenced by the amount of interest shown at its January 2018 seminar. The expert help provided by Co-operative Development Scotland goes a long way to support businesses, and importantly the employees, through the process.

And will the number of employee-owned firms continue to increase at the current rate? I would go further than that. I believe we’ll see an acceleration in the growth of employee ownership.  The Scottish experience shows how this can happen.


LindaJohnstonLocated in Brodick on the Isle of Arran, Auchrannie is an award-winning resort comprising two 4-star hotels, thirty 5-star self-catering lodges, two leisure clubs, three individually branded restaurants, a children’s Playbarn, an ASPA spa and Arran Adventure outdoor company.  It was established by Iain and Linda Johnston in 1988, with Linda heading up the company as managing director and board chair since 2010. The resort has an annual turnover of £6.7million. 

Earlier this year Auchrannie announced it had completed its transition to become an employee-owned business, with 160 members of staff becoming owners. An Employee Ownership Trust was formed and holds 100% of the shares on behalf of the employees.  The deal was structured in order to make it affordable to the business without affecting its ability to reward the team and reinvest for the future.  It marks the first time a hotel or resort in Scotland has become employee-owned.

We spoke to Linda to hear more about the decision to become employee-owned. 

“The team were involved in the process from an early stage and were given the opportunity to input throughout.  They have very much embraced the concept of employee ownership and are extremely excited about it.  They are delighted that Auchrannie’s legacy will be protected and that they have the chance to play an active part in, and benefit from, Auchrannie’s future success.  They also realise that what each of them does will affect the future success of the business and that this is directly linked to their own success, so they have already become more engaged in making the business better and understand the power and influence each and every one of them now has on their own future.  There is no, ‘them and us’ now, we’re all in this together.

“The transition has been pretty smooth despite the fact that Auchrannie is a complex business; we have been well supported by HIE, CDS, Co-ownership Solutions and Burness Paull.  The help we received was invaluable in enabling us to put together the team who lead us through the whole process seamlessly.  Although there have been a number of hurdles to jump over, there have been no real lows.

“By transferring the shares to an Employee Ownership Trust, myself and the ex-shareholders have also protected Auchrannie’s contribution to Arran.  It is very much part of the community and provides essential wet weather facilities, other amenities and support to the island’s residents and its visitors.  The change to employee ownership means that we, along with the community of Arran, can relax knowing that it will always remain an independent, locally run organisation with community values at heart.

Auchrannie 1

“Employee ownership will give the whole Auchrannie team a stake in the continued growth of the business.  All of us will work together to build a more efficient, sustainable and profitable business.  We are all excited to continue on our journey in which we strive to lead the way in Scottish tourism and create amazing experiences for our guests and an awesome place to work for our team.”

Auchrannie’s transition to employee ownership was supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), with the process managed by Co-ownership Solutions LLP and legal services by Burness Paull LLP.

If you would like to learn more about how employee ownership could benefit your business, please get in touch to arrange a chat with one of our expert advisers.


Founded 40 years ago by Robin Harvey MBE and Susan Harvey MBE to provide a professional mapmaking service for the sport of orienteering, Doune-based Harvey Maps is one of a very small number of companies in the UK to generate its own map data, becoming a market leader in maps for outdoor pursuits such as hill walking and mountain marathons.

Harvey Maps, Doune, Stirlingshire, 21/11/2017: Harvey Maps founding directors Robin and Susan Harvey.

Harvey Maps founding directors Robin and Susan Harvey.

It also recently joined the growing number of businesses in Scotland to adopt the employee ownership model, with ten staff given the opportunity to become owners. An Employee Ownership Trust has been formed and will hold 90% of the shares on behalf of the employees. Susan Harvey is the only other shareholder with 10% ownership.

We caught up with Susan to hear more about the firm’s decision to become employee-owned.  

“In due course we will want to retire. However, having formed and developed the business into a market leading company over the past 40 years, we didn’t want to sell to a competitor and see our life’s work absorbed into another company.  It was also important to us to retain the jobs in Doune.

“We wanted a succession solution which gave the company, the jobs and the brand a good chance of continued independent existence following our retirement; employee ownership ticked all of our boxes.

“The whole process has been a leap into the unknown and we could not have done it without support.  We spent quite a bit of time working with specialist advisors from Scottish Enterprise and Co-operative Development Scotland, undertaking briefings with the staff to help them understand the concept of employee ownership.

“It was an extremely busy and challenging time for the business, with the transition to employee ownership, our 40th anniversary and during the busy festive promotions season. However, the future is bright and the involvement of all employees in the ownership of the business will be a major boost going forward. I am confident that once things settle down, employee ownership will be great for the staff, the brand and the company.”

If you would like to learn more about how employee ownership could benefit your business, please get in touch to arrange a chat with one of our expert advisers.

Harvey Maps, Doune, Stirlingshire, 21/11/2017: Harvey Maps staff, with founding directors Robin and Susan Harvey (centre), pictured outside their firm's offices (white building, left) on Doune's Main Street, Stirlingshire.

Harvey Maps staff, with founding directors Robin and Susan Harvey, centre

Merlin ERD Engineering Success with Transition to Employee Ownership

Perth-based engineering experts Merlin ERD has become the latest business to join the growing number of employee-owned firms in Scotland.

Merlin, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary in Perth, has become world leader in the design and delivery of horizontal, extended reach (ERD) and complex oil and gas wells.  The company has delivered more than 200 projects in 40 countries, all from its Perth office.

We caught up with Merlin’s founder, Iain Hutchison, to find out more about the decision to transition his business to employee ownership.

“When I first began to investigate succession options, I didn’t believe employee ownership (EO) was right for Merlin.  However, after attending a Scottish Enterprise EO session and looking at the detail, I discovered that the benefits of EO were closely aligned with our values. EO offered a succession path that increased business resilience, retained our culture and provided an ideal combination of an eventual exit for me along with advantages for our loyal staff.  I really didn’t want to see what we had built here in Scotland being moved, or worse, closed by a competitor allowing them to flourish elsewhere at the expense of our local team.  By becoming employee-owned, we’re anchoring highly- skilled jobs and a profitable high-tech business in Perth, Scotland.

Queens Award 067

Merlin ERD received its second Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade in September 2016.

“Just as importantly, I want to see the business continue to grow; employee ownership has consistently proven itself to be an excellent mechanism for growth, with a more motivated and engaged workforce helping to drive innovation, ambition and turnover.

“We’ve enjoyed huge success here at Merlin ERD, expanding into overseas markets and being awarded two prestigious Queen’s Awards for Enterprise for International Trade, whilst weathering the oil and gas industry downturn.  It is my belief that our transition to employee ownership will assist in propelling the business through the next stage of growth, whilst providing exceptional opportunities for our employees who will stand to share in future profits of the business. If past performance is any guide to the future, Merlin is going to impress.”

If you would like to learn more about how employee ownership could benefit your business, please get in touch to arrange a chat with one of our expert advisers.


By Sarah Deas

I’ve always wanted to visit Mondragon, the world’s largest worker co-operative. So, I was delighted when the opportunity arose on my recent visit to the Basque Country.

Mondragon is the largest business group in the Basque Country. The co-operative was established in 1956 and now consists of 102 autonomous co-operatives, 140 subsidiaries around the world and 26 foundations / umbrella organisations. The group employs 73,655 workers across 268 business units.

Mondragon University, surrounded by some of the groups factories

Mondragon University, surrounded by some of the group’s factories

Whilst this sounds a large number, it represents a relatively small percentage of the 2,900 co-operatives and employee owned businesses in the Basque Country.  The significance lies in the number of industrial co-operatives within the group (68 in total) of which some are very large (employing more than 2000). Also, the breadth of the group is significant including credit, consumer, education and research & development businesses.

I met with Ander Etxeberria, director of Dissemination. To kick off our meeting he shared this video which provides an excellent introduction to the group. I won’t try and summarise its content… just recommend you watch it to learn more!

The inspiration and driving force behind Mondragon was a priest, Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta. Recognising the economic hardships and social division that followed the world wars, he set out to change society for the better.


Ander Etxeberria, director of dissemination at Mondragon, with CDS Director Sarah Deas

Jose believed in the dignity of the human being, the importance of solidarity and the value of education and work. His business was founded on the principles of co-operation, participation, innovation and social responsibility, values that are as relevant today as they were in the 1950s.

He didn’t set out to become a businessman, instead recruiting others to lead the growth of the co-operative. His focus throughout his life remained on the ethos of the business and working to improve society. Reflecting on my visit, that was a key insight for me.

I wondered what Jose’s advice would be to us in Scotland as we aspire to ‘inclusive growth’ that ‘combines increased prosperity with greater equality, creates opportunities for all, and distributes the benefits of increased prosperity fairly’?

I think he’d be pointing us to reflect on our values and consider models that empower and reward a key resource (human capital) and share the dividends of enterprise more widely across society.  In fact, I was struck by the similarity in ethos to that of some owners considering succession options. Increasingly they are looking for a solution that allows them to leave a legacy… which employee ownership achieves.

If we need proof that it works… the Basque Country now has the lowest level of unemployment and inequality in Spain. Given the scale of worker ownership in the region this is a clear indication of the impact of an inclusive business model.