Over 70 people attended a reception in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday (1 March) to discuss how co-ops can help give local communities more control and contibute to the fair work agenda.
The reception, organised by Scotmid and Co-operatives UK, introduced a new programme of events in Holyrood. It was attended by MSPs from across the chamber alongside people from a wide range of co-ops – from Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative to Scotmid, the largest independent co-op in Scotland, to filmmakers the Media Co-op to Scotland’s body for farmer co-ops, SAOS, to Scotland the Bread, a community owned grower and baker, and many more besides.
"In uncertain times perhaps the moment is right for politicians and the business world to look at co-operatives." Malcolm Brown, Scotmid
Introducing the event, the convener of the Cross Party Group on Co-operatives, James Kelly MSP, praised the work of co-ops across Scotland, stressing that because they are owned and run by their members “co-operatives are valuable, they put people ahead of shareholders and are about making a real difference.”
Malcolm Brown of Scotmid highlighted that in “uncertain times perhaps the moment is right for politicians and the business world to look at co-operatives and co-operation in order to see what we are doing right – and the fact we are doing it for the right reasons.”
Ed Mayo of Co-operatives UK focused on the two policy areas where co-ops have a considerable amount to contribute.
- With the Scottish government focused on community empowerment, co-ops offer a way for people to have not only a voice in their local area but also have ownership and control of it, whether it’s housing, land or vital assets or services. There are already outstanding examples of community ownership like Portpatrick harbour and Glenwyvis whisky distillery. But there is so much more than can be achieved, said Ed.
- And with its focus on fair work, the government could do well to look to co-operatives offering a voice and dignity to staff as a model. In particular, he focused on “the productivity challenge” and how “worker owned businesses, in which the staff own and control the organisation, provide more motivated and engaged staff.”
Ed added that, with support from business support programmes like The Hive, which Co-operatives UK runs in partnership with the Co-operative Bank, as well as specialist bodies like Co-operative Development Scotland and SAOS, “there has never been a better time to start of grow a co-operative in Scotland.”