Members of the Scottish Parliament met earlier this month to learn how co-ops can empower communities in the country.
The event, organised by Co-operatives UK and the Scotmid Co-operative, was held on 1 March with more than 70 MSPs and co-operators discussing the contribution the movement can make in “uncertain times”.
Those attending included representatives from Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative; Scotmid, the largest independent co-op in Scotland; filmmakers the Media Co-op; SAOS, Scotland’s body for farmer co-ops; and Scotland the Bread, a community-owned grower and baker.
James Kelly MSP, the convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Co-operatives, told the meeting: “Co-operatives are valuable, they put people ahead of shareholders and are about making a real difference.”
Malcom Brown of Scotmid added: “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.”
And Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, highlighted that communities across Scotland could receive support from the Hive, a co-operative business support programme, as well as specialist bodies such as Co-operative Development Scotland and the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society.
Mr Mayo highlighted two policy areas where he thought co-operatives could contribute to the Scottish government’s agenda: community empowerment and fair work. He gave the examples of Portpatrick Harbour, a community benefit society and GlenWyvis whisky distillery, the first community owned scotch Malt Whisky Distillery in the world.
Referring to the issue of fair work, Ed Mayo said that worker owned co-operatives could be the answer to the productivity challenge while giving employees a voice.
“There has never been a better time to start of grow a co-operative in Scotland,” he said.