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March 12, 2014

If you must sell, sell well

The Cooperative Group’s attempts to ‘reposition its core business’ with decisions to sell off its farms and pharmacies coming hard on the heels of ceding control and ownership of its bank have disappointed many. Perhaps the sheer scale and scope of the Cooperative’s operations made it inevitable that it would eventually fall foul of free market forces. But many believe this sell off could offer up some exciting opportunities if the Cooperative were to stay true to its principles. Pete Richie of Nourish Scotland dreams of a better way to work with the land.


The Co-op never meant to bet the farm on the money markets, but now it’s happened there’s a small window of opportunity to keep at least one of the Scottish farms in public/community ownership. At four and a half square miles, Blairgowrie is a good skelp of ground able to produce enough cereal, veg and soft fruit for thousands of people.

Imagine fresh strawberries being delivered to co-operative community food hubs across Scotland: organic wheat supplying half a dozen community bakeries; organic veg pre-ordered for their members by credit unions in Dundee and Perth. Imagine this huge farm being transformed into a ‘Schumacher Centre’ with 20 co-operating, right-size businesses creating opportunities for new entrants in production and processing. Imagine an on-farm education centre hosting daily school visits for Tayside schools

Imagine the £15m price tag being raised through a national community share issue, supplemented by the Scottish Land Fund and European Development Funds.


Who’s up for buying a share?