As Convener of the Cross-Party Group on Co-operatives in the Scottish Parliament I am always looking for ways to make the case for the co-operative way to do business.

In late 2019 the Cross-Party Group decided to look at how the Scottish government and its agencies, including Co-operative Development Scotland, are supporting co-operative development – and what more can be done. Then Covid-19 arrived and changed all our lives. Amid the huge challenges of the pandemic, we can see many positives – including how people have come together to support the most vulnerable at a time of national crisis. Scottish co-operatives have been at the heart of that response because their members have shared values, understand partnership working and are embedded in communities. They are also flexible, resilient organisations capable of rising to the toughest challenges.


The report which has been produced, Revive and Thrive: Why co-ops are pivotal to a fairer, stronger Scotland, looks at how a range of Scottish co-operatives reacted to the pandemic to support the very different communities they serve and how they can play a central role in ‘building back better’.


The report highlights that the co-ops are pivotal to the Scottish economy.  Co-ops create decent livelihoods and are more resilient than other businesses.  Co-ops keep viable jobs in local communities, they can breathe new life into local assets and enterprises.  Co-ops can and should look to convert the newfound community spirit into transformative social action.


The report gives case studies of co-ops who dealt well with the problems caused by the pandemic such as GreenCity Wholefoods in Glasgow; the Crunchy Carrot in Dunbar, West Whitlawburn Housing Co-operative in Cambuslang and the West Highland Free Press based on the Isle of Skye.


The report also looks at the support which the Scottish Government gives to co-operative development.  This includes the work of Co-operative Development Scotland and also Community Shares Scotland.  The report also looked at the support available from local government.  It is clear that support, though welcome, is often difficult to access.


The Scottish Government wants ‘to build back fairer and stronger’ from Covid-19.  It has set a ‘national mission to create new jobs, good jobs and green jobs’ and has an ambition for a ‘more equal Scotland for the post-pandemic period.’  As a co-operator I am clear that co-operative solutions are important in this.


Revive and Thrive sets out six recommendations which I will be putting to the Scottish Government:

  1. Establish and/or scale up programmes that help people explore and adopt the following models, which are pivotal to building back fairer and stronger: worker and freelancer co-ops; worker-community co-op hybrids; housing and land co-ops; and platform co-ops.
  2. Build on current support for employee ownership, to help people use co-ops to retain or replace livelihoods, in the face of lay-offs and business crises.
  3. Provide specialised business support to help existing co-ops thrive.
  4. Support more widespread use of the community shares financing model.
  5. Support the development of a new generation of co-op development experts in Scotland.
  6. Support the use of pivotal co-op models in community wealth building initiatives across Scotland.

You can read more about the Revive and Thrive report by clicking on the link.  You should also take a look at the excellent work which the Co-operative Party has done on our own Owning the Future report.