SUCCESSFUL home-grown telecoms network company Commsworld was blazing the trail with a living wage for its workers decades before the Scottish Living Wage Accreditation scheme was launched.

The employee-owned SME has a staff of 63 based in offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. An annual turnover of £13 million is set to rise to £30m over the next few years thanks to the securing of major contracts.

Chief executive and the largest shareholder, Ricky Nicol founded the firm in 1994 and says he was paying a living wage long before the official living wage existed. He said: “We have built our own network, we have our own equipment and exchanges, and we deliver our own circuits. We are a mini BT to all intents and purposes.

“We have always paid above the living wage, even before there was a thing called the living wage. If that meant that I got less or one of my board members got less – that’s life.

“We then fully signed up to the accreditation scheme and promoted it as soon as it came out. We were one of the first. I feel very strongly about it.”

The Scottish Living Wage Campaign, set up in 2007 by the Poverty Alliance and STUC, joined other initiatives across the UK in demanding a living wage to help address low pay and in-work poverty. The setting of the rate is overseen by the Living Wage Foundation and is based on the amount needed to fund an acceptable standard of living.

Since the scheme was launched in April 2014, 500 organisations in Scotland have become accredited as official living wage employers, paying their workers at least £8.25 per hour.

Nicol said: “Commsworld has paid a living wage for more than 20 years, not because of government policy. People feeling involved and valued is incredibly important to us and this goes a long way to building morale and demonstrating key company values.

“For any business to profit from low pay – underpaying staff and by definition treating them with contempt – is, in my opinion, wrong and not a business to be proud of. We all have a responsibility to create a better, more caring society and decent pay should be a cornerstone policy. We have – or should have – moved on from the sweatshops of the Victorian era.”

Nicol added: “If all sectors have to comply, a level playing field will be created and business models will need to adapt. Saying: ‘This is the way it has always been therefore this is the way it will always be,’ is not acceptable.

“All organisations across all sectors are having to redefine their business models in a fast changing and evolving world, driven primarily by technological advances at an unprecedented rate.

“Don’t get me wrong, successful business has to build value and create wealth in order to successfully grow our economy and therefore our country.

“As an entrepreneur I am all for building value, but not at the cost of people.

“Scotland needs to be a wealthy country that has the financial ability to also be a caring society and deliver high-quality public services such as the NHS.

“We need to build successful businesses, particularly in the SME sector which accounts for more than 98 per cent of Scottish companies, in order to fund our wider public-sector services.

“However, keeping wages at an unacceptable level in order to be successful surely has to be wrong.”