Co-operative Member of the Scottish Parliament Kezia Dugdale looks at what Ed Miliband’s visit to an Edinburgh childcare co-op last week means for the co-operative agenda.

Ed Miliband’s visit to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Childcare Co-operative (REHCC) last week was more than symbolic.  I could not be more proud that my own city is leading the way in finding creative solutions to beat Tory cuts and deliver real change in our communities.  The experience of workers at the REHCC will be shared around the country; their story can be used as an example to encourage communities to be more empowered.

The REHCC came about through adversity – the childcare facility which existed faced closure – but the solution has been hailed as “the best thing we ever did” by nursery nurses.  The co-operative’s creation was “scary” and required support and collaboration between nursery nurses, parents and the hospital; but the outcome could not have been better.

The nursery is thriving, there is a good atmosphere, a culture of respect and it provides 1st class childcare. People steeped in the power and possibilities of the Co-operative movement will hardly be surprised to hear this – but our challenge has always been to reach out and sell the movement.

Edinburgh’s newly formed Labour-led administration won the council elections on a manifesto which had co-operative values at its heart.  We promised to apply its ethos and principles across the Council as well as delivering specifically on local energy co-ops and more childcare access.

When I spoke to a local journalist about co-operatives earlier this week he said “Yeah, but the Co-op agenda is just Labour’s way of talking about the big society.” I put him right as I profoundly disagree with that statement.

In the name of a failed economic approach, David Cameron is stripping back the state and calling on volunteers to run services in its place. Co-operative models aren’t about volunteering. They are not an act of charity – they are viable businesses. Businesses built on ethics and empowerment yes, but the model more than washes its face.

The Co-operative Bank’s decision to take over at least 600 branches of Lloyd’s TSB, 189 of which are in Scotland, is a huge opportunity for our movement to sell its values and its potential.

There’s a real appetite out there for services and businesses that work for the common good whilst creating jobs and wealth. It’s a very exciting time to be a co-operator.

Kezia Dugdale is Labour & Co-operative MSP for the Lothians.