From the CDS team

As 2020 drew to a close we looked back on a year like no other, but little did we realise the next 12 months would be very similar. Although we are still in the throes of the pandemic, it’s been a busy time for Co-operative Development Scotland and the sector. Momentum continues to grow and more businesses and communities are now looking to values led and democratic approaches to build a stronger and fairer economic future. As we enter 2022 we reflect on a busy and rewarding year.  

2021 has seen continued growth in the employee ownership sector. There were around 18 business sales to an Employee Ownership Trust including Lisle Design, Paul Heat Recovery, Swansons, ics2 Cables, Aquasign, Onestop Access, Dazzle Inkspot , TEFL Organisation, Christie Gillespie CE, Microtech, Altar, Wee Blue Coo, Quantics, Heatherlea, and Greentech Sportsturf. Highland-based Reid & Fraser Chartered Accountants also became employee-owned becoming Scotland’s first employee-owned full-service accountancy firm. This brings around 170 employee-owned businesses operating in Scotland with around 120 Scottish headquartered employee-owned companies.

Succession masterclasses

Interest in becoming employee-owned is high and we engaged with business owners via a programme of succession masterclasses throughout the year to give valuable insight into the benefits of employee ownership as an exit strategy.  Case study companies who generously contributed their time included MHB Consultants, Network ROI, Chemco International, Heatherlea, Swansons Food Wholesalers and Woollard & Henry.  We were able to tap into the expertise of our Employee ownership specialist advisers including Ralph Leishman, 4c consulting, Carole Leslie, Ownership Associates and Andrew Harrison Co-ownership Solutions. Two further webinars are planned for 2022.

Employee Ownership Explained Webinar Series 2021

We ran a series of webinars aimed primarily at Scotland’s professional advisers. The Employee Ownership Explained Webinar Series, tackled subjects including the EOT – using the legislation to achieve the best outcome, financial planning for an EOT transaction and the role of the bank in an EOT transaction.  Many thanks to guest speakers Graeme Nuttall OBE, Field Fisher, Tom O’Brien and Zoe Gillespie from Brewin Dolphin and Andy Scott from RBS.

Employee Ownership Essential Leadership Programme  

Scottish Enterprise, SfEO and Connect Three came together to pilot an ‘Employee Ownership Essential Leadership Programme’.  A taster session held in 2020 with the workshops taking place in early 2021.  Aimed at leaders in businesses that are employee-owned or in the transition phase to employee ownership the programme offered a leadership development experience with a focus on impact as a leader, innovation, fair work, leading change, and inclusive ownership.

Our Podcasts

The Reset and Rebuild podcast was launched in March and proved very popular as an introduction to inclusive business models such as employee ownership, consortium co-operatives and community co-operatives, and explored the role they play in building an economy that puts people and planet before profit.  

In early 2019, we launched a podcast series entitled ‘The Employee Ownership Podcast’.  Nine  new episodes were added in 2021.  Guest speakers included employee-owned Mediascape, ITWorx, MHB Consultants, GS Brown, Pacific Building, ESPL, Guard Archaeology and Cameron Interiors, employee ownership specialists Andrew Harrison, Co-ownership Solutions, Carole Leslie, Ownership Associates and Ralph Leishman, 4c-consulting, and professional advisers Douglas Roberts, Lindsays, Bruce Farquhar, Anderson Strathern, Linzi Wilson, Consilium Chartered Accountants and Colin Grant from Time2Adapt.

 Community Business

Interest in community business has been growing for some time and we are seeing many inspiring stories emerging. The Old Forge Inn in Knoydart has earned itself the title of the most remote pub in the UK and when the current owner decided to sell, locals came together to bring  the pub under community ownership for the benefit of all its customers. They issued a share offer and smashed their initial target within a week and went on to raise £256,035. They have gone on to secure further funding from the Scottish Land Council and we look forward to seeing how the story progresses in 2022.

We continue to value our partnership work with Community Share Scotland and the Plunkett Foundation and the work we do together to provide support to community businesses. This year we launched a new video guide to help community groups find out a little more about community businesses, what the potential for them is and where to get support.

The continuation of our Making it Easy: Community Business online event once more gave community groups the opportunity to hear directly from those who are running or in the process of setting up community businesses and find out about the support available. Our most recent event was held in November and featured the Old Forge Inn, Community Carrot, Projects MCR and People Powered Retrofit. The event can be viewed here.

Looking forward to 2022 we are in no doubt there are challenges ahead for all of us but we firmly believe, as we saw in 2021, interest in employee ownership and co-ops will continue to grow and play an increasingly important role in our economy. We are kicking off the year with an exciting new event with the Hive at Co-ops UK introducing platform co-ops and as we work towards the Scottish Government goal of creating 500 EOBs by 2030 we anticipate a busy year with many exciting stories to tell.