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May 2, 2023

West Calder Cooperation

Fenwick in Ayrshire is the true birthplace of the cooperative movement. In 1761 the first ever cooperative society was formed by a small group of weavers. Although there are still plenty of inspiring examples of worker cooperatives in existence, it’s also true to say the profile and attractiveness of the worker cooperative model for new business start-ups has dipped in recent years. And so it’s very welcome news that a West Lothian village that once played a key role in founding Scotland’s cooperative movement is planning to open a major new heritage attraction to celebrate their historic contribution. 

Edinburgh Live

West Lothian village strives to honour role in Co-op Movement with museum

West Calder was a pioneer in the Scottish Co-operative Movement. Now plans for a community workspace will echo that community spirit.

Plans have been launched to transform an iconic village building into a heritage attraction and museum.

A trust has been working with villagers to create working community space, which echoes, and honours West Calder’s role in the founding of the Scottish Co-operative Movement.

The West Calder and Harburn Community Development Trust (WCHCDT) has been striving to find a sustainable future for the property in the village of West Calder – The Old Co-op Bakery or Workspace – for many years

The Scottish Co-operative Discovery Centre will be a heritage attraction and museum focused on the Co-operative movement locally and across Scotland. It will be a fun, hands-on and family-friendly place to learn, meet and share.

The Trust led project aims to transform the derelict building to be a hub for local economic development, local community cohesion, resilience, celebration, place making and community wealth building.

Matt Pearce, manager, West Calder and Harburn Community Development Trust told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The discovery centre aims to celebrate our local and national heritage, create opportunities for local people and above all to inspire people toward collective solutions for the mutual challenges we face in the world today, like inequality and the climate crisis.

“The Co-op has been a central part of West Calder and West Lothian life for 150 years. It is entwined with our everyday lives – then and now – and it has so much to teach us. We wanted to celebrate that heritage locally, but we also wondered why there wasn’t a centre to celebrate it nationally and we didn’t see why such a centre couldn’t be in West Lothian.”

Matt added: “The completed centre will be home to spaces for community, training and well-being services, creating 22 new jobs and 150 annual training opportunities targeted at the most disadvantaged in our communities.”

Gavin Henderson, Chair of West Calder and Harburn Community Development Trust said: “This project has been designed and developed by the local community. It is rooted in our local heritage and that’s a heritage that has echoes across Scotland. The project will meet a wide range of local aims and objectives.

“This is a big project for a local organisation, and we are proud of how far we have come, yet we know there are many challenges ahead of us. Funding from The National Lottery Heritage Trust has been critical to the project’s development to date and the support from them and Historic Environment Scotland will be key to delivering this vision. We thank them both and we hope the people of West Lothian will support us in this as well.”

A recent £1.4 million funding boost from the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF) towards the estimated £4.5 million capital build cost brings the total pledged by funders to nearly £3.5 million.

The RCGF funding application to The Scottish Government was backed by West Lothian Council who have been supporting the project.

Executive councillor for economy, community empowerment and wealth building at West Lothian Council, Kirsteen Sullivan said: “The Scottish Co-operative Discovery & Activity Centre will be a huge asset for West Lothian and Scotland as a whole.

“This funding is an important step forward towards the delivery of the centre, which will create a real focal point for training, economic regeneration and the local community.

“I look forward to seeing the iconic Co-op bakery building brought back into active use, for the benefit of the local community once more.”

The Trust is keen to know your thoughts on creating a new attraction like this and invites you to complete the following short online survey: