I've just been given a fascinating insight into Scottish agriculture with a study tour laid on for me by the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society. SAOS are a first rate developer and supporter of co-operatives with a proven track record. The visit introduced me to a wonderful range of farmers and producers who not only could clearly see the benefits of co-operation but also saw that unlocking value was the route for them to ensure an agricultural future.
Borders Machinery Ring was a great example of how co-operation could generate real savings for farmers when a co-operative is focused on what it can do for its members. Scott Country Potato Growers showed what a small number of growers could do by processing their own product and how its members could see all their agricultural needs met by supporting a range of co-operatives. Haddington Farmers' Market had a passion for local food. Scottish Shellfish had a stunning range of clients and a passion for quality.
Whilst England has some great agricultural co-operatives, I left with the feeling that Scotland was closer to achieving a widespread belief in the difference that co-operatives can make. I'm sure that this is due, in no small part, to the central role of SAOS in supporting directors, chairs and chief executives to improve constantly their understanding of how to make a successful co-operative.