A BUSINESS owner who went from being a No voter in 2014 to a campaigner for Scotland’s independence has kicked off 2020 with a bold move to improve staff welfare and help the environment.

Staff at Elizabeth Carnahan’s Gracefruit, a cosmetics and soap-making supplies firm, return to work today after their festive break to a four-day week – with no loss of earnings. She said it would give staff at the Longcroft, Stirlingshire firm more time for family life, as well as cutting on-site emissions by a least a fifth.

Further CO2 reductions will come from an extra weekday when staff do not have to drive to work and couriers will not have to travel to the busy firm for collections and deliveries.

Carnahan, founder and director of Gracefruit, said: “This follows on from a decision in January 2018 to begin a 23-hour week, with no loss of pay for staff.

“Our workers were delighted to be working fewer hours and having more time to pursue leisure activities and spend time with their loved ones.

“We had no loss of productivity – in fact, turnover and profits went up, there were fewer staff absences and a much happier work environment.”

Gracefruit was founded in 2005 and has become Europeʼs leading supplier of ingredients, packaging, fragrances and high-tech components for producing soaps and cosmetics.

Last September, Carnahan told our sister paper, The Sunday National, how being “on her knees” over Brexit and Westminster’s attitude to Scotland, had changed her from a No to Yes voter.

READ MORE: 'I'm on my knees with Brexit' – A businesswoman's journey from No to Yes

And she said her Brexit woes had not eased: “Our sales are down quite a bit from where they were last financial year, but we’re still above water.

“I’m not big on profit or turnover, though. As long as there is enough money to pay my staff a fair wage and pay my husband and myself a decent wage, I try not to worry too much about the accounting numbers.

“They’re fun to talk about when they’re good, but they’re not what we strive for at Gracefruit. My motto is ‘enough is plenty’.

“I’m keen to make this four-day system work. It goes back to what Alasdair Gray said about living like we’re in the early stages of a better country.

“I can’t control Brexit or what’s going on in Westminster, but I can definitely use my business as a guinea pig for better business models in future.”

Carnahan is originally from south Alabama, in the US, and has lived in Scotland since 2001 with her Scots husband Paul. The company has 10 employees including the Carnahans and their two adult children.

She said the decision to move to a four-day week was taken late last year, and meant staff can now enjoy a three-day weekend every week – something she believes could benefit many other businesses and workforces.

“We feel that working the hours needed instead of following an outdated system which is basically a hangover from an agricultural society-based working week is beneficial to staff and the environment,” said Carnahan.

“With automation on the rise, companies need to look at ways of keeping their employees happy and well cared for.

READ MORE: SNP could debate four-day full working week plan at party conference

“Working fewer hours each day in a shortened week can be a particular bonus for Scottish workers during reduced hours of daylight during the winter,” she added.

“Itʼs good for everyone,” said Carnahan. “People with kids could be there for them when the schools finish for the day, and errands donʼt have to be crammed into the weekend when people should be resting or enjoying themselves.

“Some people might think this is a risky move, but we strongly believe people work better if theyʼre happy and well cared for. Many businesses could benefit from this model and we aim to lead by example.”