First Minister Alex Salmond will tonight launch the United Nations-led International Year of Co-operatives (IYC) in Scotland.
At an evening reception at Edinburgh Castle, the First Minister will highlight the role Scotland’s 550 co-operative businesses play in driving economic growth. Scotland-based co-operatives currently have a combined turnover of £4bn and employ 28,600 people.
Alex Salmond will also unveil Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS)’s inaugural Collaboration Prize, with a prize fund of £30,000. The three winning concepts will be announced in August and will each receive a cash prize of £5,000 and £5,000 of support.
The aim is to encourage businesses to consider collaboration and pitch their idea for a new consortium co-operative.
Evidence from across Europe shows collaboration increases productivity. In addition, those regions – specifically Emilia Romagna in northern Italy where co-operatives account for more than 40 per cent of GDP – with a collaborative culture do well economically.
First Minister Alex Salmond said: “The co-operative sector offers a real alternative to traditional business models – they are owned by nearly a billion people worldwide and employ nearly 100 million people.
“This vast global movement has its 250-year-old roots here in Scotland and it is still growing. Its principles of economic viability combined with social responsibility are timeless and still relevant today.
“I am determined that the Scottish Government does everything possible to get more businesses thinking about how they can work better together, and the Collaboration Prize is a very valuable opportunity. I hope the new prize will stimulate new thinking and encourage even more companies to join this worldwide movement.”
Sarah Deas, chief executive of Co-operative Development Scotland, said: “We are very grateful to the First Minister for hosting such a high profile event. The United Nations has designated 2012 to be the year of co-operatives and our new Collaboration Prize will stimulate more Scottish businesses into thinking how they can work together.
“It’s been proven right across Europe that the consortium business model makes companies more productive, innovative and ultimately successful. That’s why we’re passionate about encouraging more businesses in Scotland to raise their sights by joining forces. We can help more companies thrive and survive the current economic headwinds.”
The event at Edinburgh Castle will bring together European figures of note in the co-operative movement including Dame Pauline Green, president of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). It will also honour Scotland’s proud history which dates back over 250 years to the Fenwick Weavers – recognised as the world’s first consumer co-operative.
Also attending the event will be figures from companies in Scotland who have applied this business philosophy to form their own consortium co-operative. These include Yellow Brick House which is a new consortium formed from leading players from Scotland’s digital media industry.
Dougal Perman, from Yellow Brick House, said: “Our new agency allows us to compete on equal terms with bigger marketing, web and digital agencies that may be seen as the first port of call for big clients when tendering these kinds of jobs. The process is hassle free and allows each individual participant company to benefit from our collective efforts.”
In 2008 the world’s largest 300 co-operatives generated revenues of $1.6 trillion, comparable to the GDP of the world’s ninth largest economy.
In the UK, there are 5,450 independent co-operative businesses with a combined turnover of over £33 billion which have outperformed the UK economy as a whole, growing by 21 per cent since the start of the credit crunch in 2008. They employ almost a quarter of a million; and 12.8 million people – over one in five of the UK population – are members of co-operatives.