Ahead of the upcoming election, political parties have voiced their support for the manifesto asks outlined by Co-operatives UK, which represents the UK’s co-operative sector. There are 564 co-ops in Scotland with a combined turnover in excess of £1.5 billion annually.
The plan includes a Co-op Job Recovery Scheme, which would support workers to protect their livelihoods by creating worker co-ops if their business is threatened by sale, relocation, restructure or closure.
She added "The pandemic has shone a light on inequalities across the UK but there is a real appetite to use this as an opportunity across Scotland to rebuild more effectively. All political parties are aligned to this thinking in Scotland and it’s refreshing to see co-operation resonating with politicians looking to strategically deliver manifestos to enable this.”
The manifesto recommendations also include a plan for a Co-op Entrepreneurs’ Scheme to allow enterprising young co-operators to kick-start more co-ops in Scotland - and a Scottish Community Finance Booster to match investment funds raised by co-op members to save or create vital local assets.
Every £1 invested by an individual in a community shares offer has led to at least £1.18 of additional funding through grants, loans and institutional investment.
The co-operative manifesto was discussed at a meeting of the Scottish Paliament’s Cross Party Group on Co-operatives.
She said the word co-operative was likely to feature heavily in the party’s manifesto, in areas including food, housing, media and responsible business.
Labour MSP Johann Lamont, a long-standing supporter of co-ops, insisted that co-ops had to be fundamental to Government thinking and not a “bonus”.
She said: “Co-ops should not be a default when businesses fail, and not be seen as simply for poor communities or vulnerable people. They are a way of doing things that’s more effective and challenging.”
Although housing co-ops - the fourth plank in the Co-operatives UK manifesto asks - had transformed some of the communities she represented, the MSP said that housing co-ops were being failed in Scotland and needed a level playing-field.
In terms of economic recovery, she said that co-operative models could help prevent people sliding into debt and give them access to safe credit, and also support people caught up in the gig economy due to the fragmentation of the employment market.
Katy Gordon, a Liberal Democrat candidate in the elections, said her party was very supportive of co-operative principles, which fitted in with its localism agenda to give people more say.
She explained that a motion to the Lib Dems’ conference this coming weekend called for “direct support from government agencies, including measures to enable more employee and community ownership of businesses, especially where the Government divests equity”.
Susan Webber, a Conservative councillor in Edinburgh and the party’s parliamentary candidate for Edinburgh Western, said: “There is broad-based support for the co-operative movement in Scotland and a desire for it to do more when Covid restrictions are lifted. While mutual ownership models will not be appropriate for all businesses, they can form the basis of many high-performing, profitable businesses and deliver a genuine business advantage.”
Rose Marley welcomed the positive support from the politicians and said: “The challenge now is to go from positive words and embed these practical programmes that we know can be implemented, that will make a difference. We want to work with all parties to develop these ideas into the party manifestos and start putting them into policy-making in the next session.”
She concluded the well attended CPG session by saying that the merits of co-operatives had to be communicated clearly, especially to young people, who have a natural affinity with the co-operative principles, and that co-ops have a role to play in ensuring that technology is used to benefit society in a positive way.