Paul Sweeney MSP and South Lanarkshire Council Leader Councillor Joe Fagan at Clansman Dynamics

I recently went along to visit Clansman Dynamics at the Scottish Enterprise Technology Park in East Kilbride New Town, just 20 or so minutes from Glasgow City Centre. Clansman Dynamics is truly a world-leading designer and manufacturer of heavy robotic handling equipment, supplying equipment for various sectors including waste processing, steel making and advanced manufacturing in every continent.

Not only are their products world-class, but their co-operative model of employee ownership is also proving to be a great success. Clansman Dynamics was founded in 1994 by Dick Philbrick and two other engineers, after an initial struggle to compete with the big players, the business reached profitability.

Dick’s ambition to transform Clansman Dynamics into an employee-owned company faced a number of setbacks along the way. There was no shortage of international interest in buying the firm, but Dick did not want to see yet another Scottish engineering success story disappear to an overseas takeover. He also turned down several offers for a management buyout as he felt such a model would only seek to build the business up to then sell it for a hefty profit a few years later to a huge global engineering player.

Eventually, he was able to buyout the only remaining shareholder and Dick’s dream of an employee-owned model was now possible, all he had to do was sell the idea to the engineers. Since December 2009, Clansman Dynamics has been owned by its workers – every one of the 60 employees has a stake in the success of the business and a democratic say over its destiny.

Employee-ownership has not only introduced a fairer management and decision-making structure to Clansman Dynamics that means everyone is engaged in the direction of the company, it has also increased the productivity and profit of the business. Clansman Dynamics serves as a fine example of co-operative ownership success, where employees come together with a common purpose and punch well above their weight in a highly competitive global market.

In Scotland, we badly need to see more employee-owned manufacturing and engineering companies to secure the future of the sector and to retain more firms in Scottish ownership. It is all too common for great Scottish engineering firms to be swallowed up by huge companies, taking the jobs and skills with them. The co-operative model can anchor companies to Scotland – as Clansman Dynamics has done – guaranteeing their future and long-term organic growth. If we are to achieve a national mission of the highest economic growth in the G7, then employee-ownership of our nation’s companies must underpin it.