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Co-op Policy Blog #23: Breakthrough in Scotland

Blog post

James Wright
Written by
James Wright
31st August 2021
Policy campaigns
Co-op Policy Blog #23: A breakthrough in Scotland

Scottish government is now committed to supporting co-ops in its policy programme. This provides a massive opportunity to unlock the huge potential for co-ops in Scotland and follows a successful effort by Co-operatives UK to build cross-party support for our movement. 

We are celebrating a landmark move in Scotland with co-ops set to enjoy focused government support. And it gets even better for housing co-ops following the new power-sharing agreement between the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Scottish Greens.

With some discreet input from Co-operatives UK during confidential negotiations, the parties agreed to two explicit references to supporting co-ops in their Shared Policy Programme. There is now agreement that Scottish government will:

  • Provide tailored support to co-ops, with a view to increasing their representation in the Scottish economy
  • Provide further support for housing co-ops, which could include Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) relief, with funding and financing options

The text on increasing the scale of the Scottish co-op economy may not be quite as clear and committal as we had hoped, but to have explicit reference to co-ops in the new policy programme for Scottish government is a significant improvement. It’s also an incredible opportunity to unlock the massive potential of co-ops in Scotland.

We know there's a real economic case for co-ops; that businesses that share power and wealth are the future. It's significant that this is now reflected in government policy.

Quote mark
That the SNP-Green agreement has resulted in stronger policy support for co-ops, demonstrates the importance of Co-operatives UK's political independence and cross-party approach to lobbying.
– James Wright, Policy Officer, Co-operatives UK

Cross party working

In the run up to the Scottish election Co-operatives UK made a concerted effort to win support for co-ops from across the political spectrum. In this we were successful, with specific manifesto commitments from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens. 

The Cross Party Group on Co-operatives in the last Parliament was a critical platform for this. All the MSPs who contributed to the group share in this win, not least the Convenor, former MSP James Kelly, who put in so many extra hours on behalf of co-ops. The Scottish Co-operative Party also provided critical support to the group.

I'm also really grateful to all the co-ops who contributed so much to the success of the last Cross Party Group and helped win over the politicians. Not least: Green City Wholefoods, Edinburgh Student Housing Co-op, Bridgend Farmhouse, Jangling Space, Ploughshare Housing Co-op, West Highland Free Press, Crunchy Carrot, West Whitlawburn Housing Co-op, Portpatrick Harbour, Govanhill Baths and Scotmid.  

A meeting has been arranged in October to reconvene the Cross Party Group in this Parliament. Given the new focus on co-ops in Scottish Government’s policy programme, the work of the Cross Party Group will be more important than ever. 

Scottish Greens have been champions of co-ops for many years. The Greens' co-leader Lorna Slater gave me assurances that she and her party would champion co-ops in this Parliament - and she was certainly true to her word when it came to negotiating with the SNP.

That the SNP-Green agreement has resulted in stronger policy support for co-ops, demonstrates the importance of Co-operatives UK's political independence and cross-party approach to lobbying. 

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Next steps

We already knew we have a good opportunity to secure support for housing co-ops in Scottish government’s coming Rental Strategy, after getting recognition for them in the Housing to 2040 review. The new Shared Policy Programme adds further weight to this. It's important to keep up the momentum and we'll be convening a roundtable of Scottish stakeholders next month (September 2021) to explore this.

In other Scottish policy news our CEO, Rose Marley, is giving evidence to the Economy and Fair Work Committee in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday (2 September 2021) morning.

We were already engaging Scottish government on various aspects of its policy agenda and now expect to proceed with a greater priority.

Any Scottish members of Co-operatives UK that wants to know more about any of this work is urged to can contact me any time. Any non-member co-ops should also join Co-operatives UK to be part of this effort.

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