As a Co-operative MSP I was broadly supportive of what the Scottish Government were trying to achieve.
As a co-operator I know that co-ops empower people, which is why I support them. I was really pleased to see that in many instances Community Benefit Societies were highlighted as the vehicle for community empowerment. These so-called bencoms are important, it is good that legislation now recognises their ability to make difference in communities up and down the country. The main point I raised with the Minister in the debate was who is going to support and promote bencoms.
The Scottish Labour and Co-operative-led Scottish administration set up Co-operative Development Scotland as an organisation designed to promote the co-operative model. Co-operative Development Scotland is doing a good job, especially in promoting employee buy-outs.
I hope that Co-operative Development Scotland will now develop a role in promoting co-operative models in Community Empowerment. It is not good enough to say that we support bencoms and then do nothing about it. The Scottish Government must actively support bencoms and make sure that they are widely understood. Communities looking for assistance on a community buy-out must be aware of the bencom model and easily able to access advice about it.
I will be writing to Fergus Ewing the Minister responsible for Co-operative Development Scotland to ask what extra support is going to be given to them to help them play an important role in empowering Scotland’s communities.
I welcome the passing of this legislation but we must be serious about it making a difference to our communities. I want to make sure the community benefit co-operative models play an important part in making this happen.