Georgina Edwards, Plunkett’s Policy and Research Manager provides an update on Plunkett’s response to the Scottish Government consultation on Community Wealth Building.

Last week Plunkett Foundation responded to a consultation by the Scottish Government on the implementation of Community Wealth Building.

We drew attention to ways of supporting community businesses to set up and thrive, particularly during the cost of living crisis, so that they can continue working towards the vision of a wellbeing economy.

Our submission was based on consultation with Plunkett members and our work with community businesses in partnership with Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), the Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS), and Community Shares Scotland (CSS). Plunkett also recently delivered a programme alongside these partners specifically for Scottish community pubs, funded by the Scottish Government.

Currently, there are 82 community businesses trading in Scotland and over 100 in development.

Last month the Scottish Government launched a consultation on its proposal to implement Community Wealth Building, with the following definition:

“Community Wealth Building is an approach designed to tackle long-standing economic challenges and transform Scotland’s local and regional economies by considering the ways in which the public sector, in partnership with the private, third and community sectors, can ensure more wealth is generated, circulated and retained in communities and localities.”

The central principle of Community Wealth Building is that wealth that is generated locally should be reinvested locally, to benefit people and the environment. To ensure that this happens, it’s important that communities have a say in what happens to the profits they help to generate through land and businesses in their area.

“Community wealth” is about taking business decisions that put money back into the local economy, such as employing local people and sourcing produce from local suppliers. “Community wealth” is also about inclusive ownership, making sure that any wealth that is generated is invested where it’s needed most. Community-owned businesses, such as pubs, shops and farms have enormous potential to realise the Community Wealth Building vision because they give local people a say in how revenue is spent – meaning that profits can be reinvested in a variety of local projects such as allotments, schools, renovating community buildings, creating space for wildlife, and maintaining much-needed community services like transport.

In Plunkett’s response to the consultation, we drew attention to the fact that community businesses are excellent examples of Community Wealth Building in action. Here are a few examples from around Scotland:

  • The Red Lion, Culross, was bought in 2022 by 270 shareholders from the local community, after its original owners decided to retire. Now it can continue to offer social activities in a small rural community. It is the largest local employer with 15-20 staff, including young people from the village. In future, it has plans to install bike racks, e-bike and e-vehicle charging points. (In fact, the Scottish government chose the Red Lion as the official launch venue for this consultation!)
  • The Anchor Tavern, on the Isle of Bute, opened under community ownership last year. They’re on a mission to run events that the community want, from weekly music jamming sessions to creative writing workshops. A local Forestry Group ran its own programme of wellbeing activities with the pub, which intends to become a hub for cycling and walking trails.
  • The village shop in Invermoriston was re-opened by the local community earlier this year, and providing access to groceries and household essentials in a remote rural area. Apart from being a lifeline in times of need, the community business now has a dedicated space to showcase products made by local craftspeople so that they can benefit from the tourist trade. The shop also plans to help shoppers reduce single-use plastic packaging by offering a refill service.

There are many more case studies of community businesses generating community wealth in Scotland and beyond. Whether it’s a pub, shop, bakery, distillery, farm, or woodland – community businesses create thriving and resilient places thanks to their inclusive, innovative and impactful business model. You can find out more about our work in Scotland here.

The consultation asked whether legislation would be helpful for implementing Community Wealth Building. Plunkett supports a combined approach, whereby Scottish Ministers and local authorities are legally required to incorporate the CWB model into national and place-based strategies. This would have two advantages: firstly, connecting the Scottish government’s other national strategies for Land Reform and becoming a Good Food nation to Community Wealth Building; and secondly, ensuring that there is a consistently proactive approach to Community Wealth Building across all local authorities in Scotland.

We also spoke to Plunkett members to get their opinion on what actions the Scottish Government should take to implement community wealth building. Our members described new legislation as an “important plank” but by no means the only way of achieving this vision. In fact, non-legislative methods were considered just as important for supporting community businesses who are building a better economy. It is fundamentally important that the practical needs of community businesses are addressed, particularly in the context of current financial pressures due to the cost of living crisis.

Based on our members’ feedback, we made the following recommendations to the Scottish Government:

  1. Provide immediate financial relief to help existing community businesses through the cost of living crisis (which could be part of a wider scheme to help small, local and rural businesses). As one Plunkett member said, “our cerebral bandwidth is being taken up with trying to survive”.
  2. Offer mid/long-term finance and support packages to community businesses to help develop their business and wider community activities, such as improving their energy efficiency, refreshing their business plan or recruiting a Community Engagement Officer.
  3. To help more community businesses get set up, offer a wider range of accessible and blended finance options. For example, DTAS, in partnership with Scottish Communities Finance Ltd, is developing an ambitious Democratic Finance Programme.
  4. Investigate and take action on the obstacles facing new community businesses who are trying to get established. This involves addressing “nitty gritty” details. For example, some community businesses have reported struggling to open a bank account due to lack of awareness in the banking sector about community ownership as a robust business model.
  5. For both developing and existing community businesses, enable local authorities to take a more proactive approach to CWB by engaging directly with community businesses. This might involve increased capacity through dedicated officers or the creation of Community Wealth Forums to include community businesses in the development of place-based strategies to CWB.
  6. Utilize existing infrastructure to promote the CWB agenda and raise awareness of the community ownership business model as a way of achieving this. Initiatives such as the “Community Business: Making it Easy” partnership, involving Community Shares Scotland, Cooperative Development Scotland and Plunkett Foundation has created a much more aligned and connected support infrastructure in Scotland.

The Red Lion, Culross

We look forward to following the Scottish Government’s developing proposals for Community Wealth Building and we will continue to work alongside our partners to voice the needs of community businesses – both those that are currently trading and those who are yet to come.

If you have any comments or questions about our Policy work, contact Georgina Edwards, Policy and Research Manager (

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