Community enterprises remain positive through a challenging year

Posted: 01 March 2021, in News

The upheaval and uncertainty of the past twelve months have brought many negatives, but at Community Shares Scotland there have been real signs for optimism. The programme, which has been funded by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery Community Fund Scotland, saw its busiest ever period in the last few months of 2020. 

The CSS team supported a number of projects in the closing weeks of the year, spanning multiple sectors and between them raising well over £1 million. A flurry of early stages enquiries also suggests that these activity levels will continue through 2021. 

Among those receiving support in 2020 were Isle of Eigg Brewery, a newly established community benefit society seeking to build a carbon neutral microbrewery on the island. Led by experienced brewer Stu McCarthy, the society raised almost £200k with over six hundred people investing. They will now build on the experience of Stu’s previous venture, Laig Bay Brewing Co, which despite its tiny scale built a good relationship with retailers such as Aldi. While Eigg residents could apply for shares on preferable terms to those outside the island, the share offer attracted international interest, with new members incentivised by generous interest, tax relief and – of course – free beer. 

Meanwhile in Edinburgh, another society was established in a bid to provide sustainable, long term housing for previously homeless men. Common Ground Against Homelessness works in close partnership with Rowan Alba, a charity with over 25 years of experience tackling homelessness in the capital. Their share offer reached its maximum fundraising target to raise £715,000, with the Society since taking ownership of a building in the south of the city. That property will be adapted for use by Rowan Alba, providing ‘homes for life’ for nine previously homeless men. Common Ground Against Homelessness hopes to issue more shares in future, with their next share offer already in development, looking at a similar scheme for women. 

In the Highlands, a pioneering model has helped a local development trust to take ownership of a vacant local building, establishing it as a community transport hub. Glenurquhart Rural Community Association (GURCA) is a member of the Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS) – the parent organisation to Community Shares Scotland. They became one of the first organisations to establish a community benefit society using the DTAS ‘hybrid model rules’. 

These governing documents have been developed to maintain a formal link between a community benefit society and an established organisation such as a development trust. The development trust will hold a ‘Community Anchor Share’ in the society, affording it certain powers including veto rights over certain resolutions. In this case, GURCA will own the former Visit Scotland tourist information site, which is in turn leased and operated by its partner society, Loch Ness Hub.

More and more communities are beginning to see the opportunities available through community shares, and with support available not only from Community Shares Scotland but its various partners too, it has never been easier to get up and running with this type of enterprise. 

Toby Sandison, Programme & Communications Officer, Community Shares Scotland