A NEW industry leadership group will aim to make Scotland the best country in the world for employee-owned businesses, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will announce today.

The First Minister will confirm the establishment of “Scotland for EO” (employee ownership) when she travels to Arran for a Cabinet meeting and visits the Auchrannie resort, which is employee-owned.

Scotland for EO will aim to increase the number of employee and worker-owned businesses from around 100 to 500 by 2030. It will be backed with £75,000 of Scottish Government funding and will be co-chaired by Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills.Scotland aims to become a world leader in employee ownership and other co-operative models. Evidence shows these models perform well in terms of productivity, inclusion and innovation and there is less likelihood of them moving operations outside Scotland.

The First Minister said: “The health of the Scottish economy depends on having a diverse range of business-types and employee ownership clearly has an important role to play in that.

“We want to make it easier for companies and workers to find out more about this model and to move towards it if it’s right for them.”

John Clark, chair of employee-owned business Novograf and one of the steering group behind the initiative, said: “We have a choice: to be passive and allow the development of a support environment for EO companies to happen without industry input, or to take a proactive approach and seek to actively influence how that environment evolves. We believe the proactive approach creates the prospect of making Scotland the best country in the world to establish and grow an EO business.”

The number of employee-owned businesses in Scotland continues to rise with the support of Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), part of Scottish Enterprise.

Sarah Deas, director at Scottish Enterprise and head of CDS, who will be a key member of the leadership group, said: “The appetite for employee ownership has never been greater. In the last five years the number of employee and worker owned businesses operating in Scotland has trebled.”