Surge in employee owned businesses 'encouraging for Scottish economy'

More Scottish firms than ever are making the move to becoming owned by their staff, according to a legal firm which has seen related deals double.

Lawyers at Lindsays, which has offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, have been involved in almost twice as many employee ownership deals across the country so far this year than they were in the whole of 2021.

Douglas Roberts, a partner in the firm’s corporate team, said there were no signs of that trend slowing with the Scottish Government pushing for 500 employee-owned businesses to be based in the country by 2030.

Earlier this month, more than 200 staff at a Scottish bingo chain gained a stake in the business after it became one of the largest firms to switch to employee ownership.

The ten-venue Carlton Bingo chain made the move following a “positive rebound” after the challenges and closures brought about by the pandemic.

The company, which operates venues in Inverness, Stirling, Livingston, Dunfermline, Buckie, Elgin, Fraserburgh, Dalkeith, East Kilbride and Partick in Glasgow, has now put its shares into an employee ownership trust (EOT). The move sees staff given a controlling stake in the business.

Roberts said: “We are seeing huge demand from companies interested in, then becoming, employee-owned. As well as the transitions we have completed so far this year, a number of other deals are in the pipeline. It’s really encouraging for the Scottish economy.

“Increasing numbers of businesses are realising that employee ownership can work for them. It’s clear from the companies we are involved with that this is a model that can work for any size of company.

Douglas Roberts is a partner in the corporate team at Lindsays, which has offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee.

“This is a model which brings benefits for everyone,” he added. “For staff who become employee owners, they secure a controlling stake in their future.

“For those looking to sell their business, it allows them to secure the future of their company while also managing their departure in a way that works for them.”

Lindsays has completed nine EOT deals already this year, many of them breaking ground in new sectors.

Deals in which the firm has been involved with so far this year include Carlton Bingo and Edinburgh-based Kidzcare, which become what is thought to be the first business in the Scottish childcare sector to transition to employee ownership.

Organised by the Employee Ownership Association, Employee Ownership Day highlights the economic and social benefits that can be achieved when employees have a stake and a say in where they work.

Roberts added: “The knowledge that staff in employee ownership businesses have that their destiny is in their own hands can be a powerful factor in motivating them to ensure their business is successful and sustainable. They benefit directly from that success.

“As a result, they often stick together and work harder for each other. This encourages innovation, as well as improving performance and productivity.

“As the number of employee-owned companies grows, that will add an increasingly important layer of resilience to the Scottish economy.”

A business is defined as being employee-owned if there is an employee stake of at least 25 per cent of the firm with no majority shareholder.

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