CO-OPERATIVES UK has taken Musselburgh & Fisherrow Chief Executive Tom Lees to task over his claim that many UK societies are unable to generate sufficient profits to provide meaningful benefits for members.
In a response to an article in the Musselburgh News, which quoted Mr Lees extensively, David Coulter, Deputy Chief Executive of Co-ops UK, wrote to the paper to point out that "while this is undoubtedly the case at the moment in his co-op, it is certainly not the case elsewhere".
Said Mr Coulter: "Over the past few years, many societies have seen an improvement in their financial position and, in some cases, profits have increased by over 20 per cent. Compare that with the case at M&F where profits declined by 33 per cent over the year.
"Along with the benefit of part-owning a major local business, the work being done to reintroduce member dividend in many societies means that members are receiving greater financial benefits from their membership.
"In many societies, individual members receive cash dividend each year amounting to hundreds of pounds. Contrast that to a one-off payment of £ 500 to give up ownership of the Musselburgh and Fisherrow Co-op forever."
And in relation to a comment by Mr Lees that the Musselburgh board had "listened to members and responded to what they want," Mr Coulter asked why, if directors were so strongly behind the conversion, half of them had resigned over the past month.
Added Mr Coulter: "If members of M&F want to change the status of their society, that is one thing. But I believe they should have access to all the right information to make such a considerable and irreversible decision, which will inevitably affect the wider local community."
Meanwhile former Musselburgh & Fisherrow President George Cunningham has also condemned the privatisation plans.
He told the News: "I totally reject the attempt by some individuals to benefit financially from the considerable assets of the society built up over generations.
"I also deplore the fact that comments I have made have been used out of context to give the impression I support the privatisation of the society."
Added Mr Cunningham: "As a lifelong co-operator with over 35 years association with the society, it saddens me that this process has been initiated and I must state my unequivocal opposition to it."