Co-operative Development Scotland has launched a new campaign to showcase the role inclusive business models can play in achieving the Scottish Government’s aim of creating a fairer, stronger and more democratic economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.

To launch the campaign, CDS commissioned a new survey which revealed promising results for receptiveness to the community business model.

  • Half of Scots (48%) agree the pandemic has provided an opportunity to make Scotland’s economy stronger and fairer.
  • Scots under 35 year olds were even more likely to agree (59%).
  • 64% also said that the pandemic has already made their business more socially responsible.

The top three priorities for respondents were: protecting jobs (74%), staff wellbeing (67%) and creating innovative solutions to problems (53%).

“As this survey shows, the pandemic has increased the importance businesses place on social responsibility.” Commented Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, who is supporting the CDS campaign.

Now is a better time than ever to consider switching to a more socially responsible form of business. Community-focussed business models are thriving in Scotland. A new report published this year by the Scottish government reveals that community ownership continued to grow in 2019. In December 2019, there was a recorded increase in community owned assets by 5%, resulting in a total of 590 assets owned by communities across Scotland. This is a relatively recent development. More than half of these assets entered community ownership in the last 10 years, and a just over a quarter in the last five. Community business is particularly strong in rural areas. 63% of community owned assets are in remote rural areas, while a further 17% in accessible rural areas.

In spite of the pandemic, Scottish community businesses continue to show resilience and support for their communities. We can only expect this number to rise as communities unite in the wake of the pandemic.

There is a promising political landscape for continued growth for the sector. In its Economic Recovery Implementation Plan, the Scottish government has committed to building a “wellbeing economy”, which means “means creating an economy that is environmentally sustainable, where businesses can thrive and innovate, and that supports all of our communities across Scotland to access opportunities that deliver local growth and wellbeing through tackling inequalities.” From the lessons learned by Scottish community land owners during the last few months, it’s clear that the community ownership model will certainly play a key role in bringing in this new economy.

The Plunkett Foundation has supported 54 community businesses in Scotland, including 13 woodlands, 21 shops and 4 pubs. In the past year, Plunkett has provided support to 22 community businesses, the majority of these with help of Co-operative Development Scotland. The ongoing partnership between Co-operative Development Scotland, Community Shares Scotland and the Plunkett Foundation offers a collective support package to help anyone considering setting up a community business in Scotland. A wide range of advice and practical support is available, including:

  • Choosing the best business model
  • Selecting a suitable legal structure
  • Accessing funding
  • Developing a community share offer
  • Community engagement, including promoting a community share offer
  • Company governance and managing the daily running of your business
  • Specialist support for community business in rural communities

There are also networking opportunities, including introductory events and opportunities to connect with other community businesses for support and advice.