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Shaping the future of co-operation in Scotland: A blog

Blog post

Tom Laing
Written by
Tom Laing, Policy Officer
9th February 2024
Shaping the future of co-operation in Scotland

Scottish government is currently conducting a review of how to increase the number of co-operatives, social enterprises and employee-owned businesses. In this blog, our Policy Officer outlines the recommendations we have put forward on behalf of our members.

A quiet revolution is underway, guided by Scottish government's ambitious National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET), writes Tom Laing, Policy Officer at Co-operatives UK. At the heart of this transformation lies a commitment to fostering the growth of inclusive and democratic businesses. 

Co-operatives UK's role

Over the past year, we have utilised our position on the review panel to champion the views and insights of our members. In preparation for the review, we ran a member consultation in 2022 and held a policy summit in 2023. Once the review was underway, we involved our members with online and in-person meetings and consultations. 

Drawing on our members' wealth of knowledge and experience, we have put forward a set of progressive recommendations aimed at fostering the growth of co-operatives and other democratic business models in Scotland. Some of our key proposals include:

  • Ambitious targets: Setting a policy goal for 10% of all businesses in Scotland to adopt a democratic structure over the next 10 years.
  • Statutory duties: Creating statutory duties within Scottish government and national agencies to actively promote and deliver co-operative growth. This would require a substantial increase in budget allocations for co-operative development.
  • Research funding: Increasing funding for research used to inform policy and practice with regard to the democratic economy. 
  • Educational initiatives: Educating young people about co-operatives in schools, colleges, and universities with the aim of cultivating a culture of co-operative entrepreneurship.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Increasing 'pre-technical' co-operative development, (e.g. outreach, training, and exploration) with a focus on empowering and including disadvantaged and marginalised communities.
  • Peer support: Funding peer support networks that enable co-operatives to share knowledge and experience for mutual benefit.
  • Expanded co-operative development support: Providing additional resources for an expanded Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) to enable comprehensive support for emerging and existing co-operatives.
  • Increased investment: Urging the Scottish National Investment Bank to actively support investment in co-operatives.

Our eight recommendations provide a blueprint for change, with ambitious targets, expanded development support, and a call for increased investment (plus a fair bit more). These recommendations - created for and alongside our members - represent a comprehensive vision for a Scotland where economic structures are not just equitable but foster co-operative entrepreneurship.

What's next?

We are optimistic that the final report will reflect the needs and aspirations of our members. 

As the outputs of the review will only be recommendations, the next step will involve a collective effort from the co-operative movement to convince Scottish government to adopt and enact these policies.

This must be a collaborative endeavour. Working with all political parties, government and the Cross-Party Group on Co-operatives is essential if we are to pave the way for a more inclusive, democratic, and economically vibrant Scotland.

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