Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance one of two business models highlighted by Scottish agencies in showcase event

On Monday this week, 17th September, Co-operative Development Scotland and Highland and Islands Enterprise joined forces to showcase the benefits of two business models, each of which is making a significant contribution to Scotland’s economy.

The event – at Highlands and Islands Enterprise HQ in Inverness – marked a celebration of the 2012 International Year of Co-operatives, with experts discussing the features and benefits of the consortium and employee-owned business models.

It’s purpose was to promote the sharing of expertise from collaborative business models and initiatives with proven success.

Two successful Highland businesses, Ross-shire-based seafood firm Aquascot and Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance shared their experience of how the models work in practice.

Aquascot, based in Alness, is an Employee-owned sustainable seafood business which began its eight-year journey towards employee ownership in 2008 and expects it to be complete by 2016.

Its Managing Director, Dennis Overton, says: ‘Employee ownership offers long term value creation in the north of Scotland.

‘It provides a sturdy platform for the next generation of the business, allowing us to look to the future with confidence.’

Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance was set up as an open consortium co-operative business in 2010. The open membership allows contributions from businesses across the area to support the Alliance and provide a true reflection of what visitors can expect from the region.

Carron Tobin, founder member of Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance says: ‘The consortium business model is one that is very relevant to tourism businesses in the region. Some of us have tried to market the area individually, but we’re just one lone voice in a very crowded marketplace.

‘We have quickly found that by working together, we’re getting a much more consistent and compelling brand message out there and are definitely hitting a broader range of audiences than each of us could do on our own.\

There are 578 co-operative businesses currently operating in Scotland with a combined turnover of more than £4bn and employing 28,600 people.

Sarah Deas, CEO of Co-operative Development Scotland, says: ‘The Highland region of Scotland is an area which is perfectly suited to our two models.

‘The employee-owned model is one that safeguards the future of a long standing business by giving the very people that helped to build it a chance to shape its future.

‘With great distances between towns in the region, smaller businesses in remote areas are given the opportunity to compete with much larger businesses or access better deals on stock through a consortium.

‘Both the consortium and employee-owned models, allow people to invest in the work they are doing. Our event on Monday aimed to highlight the issues that businesses in the region need to consider with these two models and to outline the forms of support available in Scotland.’


Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) is a Scottish Enterprise subsidiary, established to help companies grow by setting up consortium or employee-owned businesses. It works in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Consortium co-operatives are established when groups of companies come together to pool their resources. The consortium is run on an equal basis for its members and may be set up to buy or sell in scale, market more effectively, share facilities or jointly bid for contracts.

An employee-owned business is one in which the employees hold the majority of the shares either directly or through an employee benefit trust. EO gives employees a meaningful stake in their organisation together with a genuine say in how it is run.

Further information is available on the Cooperative Development Scotland website or by phone: 0141 951 3055.

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