Ahead of the Scottish elections on Thursday 6 May, our Head of Policy, Chris Cowcher sets out the commitments we expect from all parties to help the community-owned business sector in Scotland to grow and flourish.

In Scotland, Plunkett is currently working with 74 community businesses, including 25 shops, 13 woodlands, 10 pubs and 26 other community-owned businesses, such as breweries, energy generation projects and local food initiatives.

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. We also work alongside the Development Trusts Association Scotland to champion the community business model for a thriving and resilient rural economy.

Growing interest in a fairer and greener economy

In the months preceding the Scottish election, there has been increasing receptiveness to sustainable economic models. Speaking at the Reset and Rebuild roundtable organised by CDS earlier this year, Dr. Katherine Trebeck, Advocacy and Influencing Lead of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, said:

“Scotland really is at the cusp of leading this new wave; the challenge is that we need to do a lot more to make inclusive business models the mainstream. The levers we need to get there range from advice, training, planning and procurement – all of this matters when it comes to creating an economy designed for people and planet.”

What the parties are promising

Plunkett is pleased to see commitments along these lines from all the parties in the run-up to the Scottish election. Across the political spectrum, there is acknowledgement of the benefits of maintaining and growing the community ownership and cooperative sector, and working towards a social economy.

In particular, we are glad to see proposals for increasing the Scottish Land Fund by the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats, and we would like to see more emphasis placed on support for communities before, during and after the buy-out process. We also welcome Labour’s commitment to supporting Co-ops UK’s ask for booster funding for community shares, which would deliver match investments raised through community share offers. This would undoubtedly make community ownership more accessible for less affluent communities. In this vein we also support the proposals by the SNP and the Green Party to review the effectiveness of the Community Right to Buy, particularly with reference to uptake in deprived areas.

Looking to the future of the sector in Scotland, we support the Scottish Land Commission’s ambition to achieve a shift towards a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to community ownership. With a growing sector, we can now set our sights on achieving “a culture shift so that community ownership becomes a routine option for communities, so that it is a planned and proactive approach to community development, rather than reactive, driven by specific problems or land coming onto the market.”

We would like all parties standing candidates at this election to:

    • Provide continued support for the community, cooperative and social economy in Scotland, ensuring that the profile of the sector is prominent, well promoted and represented in the new Parliament.
    • Continue to resource a diverse network of infrastructure bodies to operate in Scotland and create a collaborative environment amongst these organisations to make access to advice, expertise and support simple and easy for communities.
    • Introduce a booster for community funding via a scheme aimed at making institutional investment in local assets easier, as proposed by Co-ops UK.

If you are an existing community business in Scotland, or a developing group we’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts about the election and feed in your comments, hopes or concerns via our Information Hub Manager, Georgina Edwards georgina.edwards@plunkett.co.uk.