THE new Co-operation & Mutuality Scotland organisation (CMS) has set its sights on establishing a co-operative development agency for the whole of Scotland as soon as possible.
At the first meeting of CMS following its official launch at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, members discussed the body's priorities and agreed to press for a watertight co-operative and mutual development agency as soon as it is practicable.
CMS Secretary Joe Hill (pictured) told the News that there was a lot to be decided and care would be taken to ensure the project is not rushed.
"We anticipate a Scotland-wide CDA will do a lot of good and it could take two or three years to set up properly. But the aim will be to make sure that no future Scottish administration can come in and dissolve it."
Mr Hill, the Co-operative Party's National Organiser in Scotland, said the Labour-led Scottish Executive had shown a good deal of interest in the co-operative ideal and initiatives and had sought links with the sector, with the eight-strong group of Labour/Co-op MSPs providing the ideal ?bridge'.
Another early target for CMS, said Mr Hill, was to set up a meeting with Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson, the chief executives of retail societies in Scotland and the shop workers' union Usdaw to discuss the ongoing problem of retail crime.
Ms Jamieson, Labour/Co-op MSP for Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley, was one of around 30 MSPs who attended the recent launch of CMS ? a turnout that delighted Mr Hill and bodes well for the future success of the organisation, which came about as a result of a merger between the Scottish Sectional Board of Co-operatives UK and the Scottish Co-operative and Mutual Forum.
All the main parties in the Scottish Parliament were represented, though Mr Hill says he found himself having to explain what the Movement is all about to curious MSPs.
"I just told them that the Co-op is a business that has to make a surplus to fulfil its social goals," said Mr Hill. "I think that's a succinct way to put it to people who are not sure where we are coming from."
Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK, told a packed audience at Parliament's Committee Room One: "Co-operatives UK has been proud to represent its members in Scotland for over 130 years.
"We may have a new name and corporate identity; a new focus and very many new members, but we are not a new organisation ? we know the co-operative world in Scotland well.`
Added Dame Pauline: "We are excited about the coalition partnership's clear commitment to create a Co-operative Development Agency for Scotland and we want to work in partnership with the decision-makers to make that a reality."
Scottish Co-op Secretary Martin Meteyard has been elected chairman of CMS with Alex Smith of the Co-operative Party in Scotland becoming Development Co-ordinator.
CMS can be contacted on 0141 353 1302 or e-mail: [email protected]