Scots worker-owned firms are the future

The Scottish Government will today unveil plans to bring about a dramatic five-fold increase in the number of worker-owned businesses in Scotland. Picture: Auchrannie Resort.
The Scottish Government will today unveil plans to bring about a dramatic five-fold increase in the number of worker-owned businesses in Scotland. Picture: Auchrannie Resort.
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The Scottish Government will today unveil plans to bring about a dramatic five-fold increase in the number of worker-owned businesses in Scotland.

A new industry leadership group called Scotland for EO will aim to raise the number of employee and worker-owned businesses from around 100 to 500 by 2030.

It will be backed with £75,000 of Scottish Government funding and co-chaired by Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills.

“All the evidence tells us that employee ownership delivers benefits to business performance, the people who work in them and the places in which they are located,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

“This has certainly been the experience of the Auchrannie team in Arran. The health of the Scottish economy depends on having a diverse range of business-types and employee ownership clearly has an important role to play in that.

“We want to make it easier for companies and workers to find out more about this model and to move towards it if it’s right for them. Scotland for EO will help to make this into a real option for businesses across Scotland.”

The initiative will be unveiled by Ms Sturgeon as she travels to Arran for a meeting of the Scottish Cabinet today where she will visit the Auchrannie resort, one of Scotland’s leading employee-owned businesses.

Linda Johnston, co-founder and managing director of Auchrannie Resort, said: “We first started looking at employee ownership in as means of protecting the ethos of the company.”

The team running the resort have the chance to “play an active part” in decision-making and its future success, she added.

“What each of them does will affect the future success of the business and that this is directly linked to their own success,” Ms Johnston added.

“There is no, ‘them and us’ now, we’re all in this together.”

There are around 100 employee and worker owned businesses operating in Scotland with approximately 7,000 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of around £940 million.

The new Scotland for EO will create an industry strategy that supports employee-owned businesses and included representatives of firms which already operate this way, as well as the Scottish Government and Enterprise bodies.

John Clark, chair of employee-owned business Novograf, will be on the steering group behind the initiative.

“The group has been established as the number of employee-owned businesses in Scotland continues to rise,” he said.

“This has been achieved with the support of Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), a dedicated team within Scottish Enterprise whose remit it is to promote awareness of EO and other co-operative models and provide advice to businesses considering adopting these models.”

Sarah Deas, director at Scottish Enterprise and head of CDS, said the appetite for employee ownership has “never been greater.”

She said: “In the last five years the number of employee and worker owned businesses operating in Scotland has trebled and this past year we have been working on a ‘deal a month’ on average.

“Our client pipeline is expanding too, indicating take-up of the model will continue to accelerate in future years. Promoting employee ownership helps drive growth in the economy and create greater wealth equality in society.”