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The Edinburgh based Co-operative society

Scotmid Co-operative is Scotland’s largest independent co-operative and has been at the heart of Scottish communities since 1859. Our businesses include Scotmid Co-operative, Lakes and Dales Co-operative, Semichem, Funeral Directors, Post Offices and our property division. We employ around 5,000 people in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of England across nearly 350 retail outlets.

As a co-operative society, we are owned by our members, who each have an equal say in how we are run. We are true to our co-operative values and principles we are committed to supporting our local communities through investment in both community and co-operative initiatives.

Scotmid Co-operative is independent from The Co-operative Group, but we work together in the true spirit of co-operation as members of the Co-operative Retail Trading Group (CRTG).

Here is some of our History...

1859 - From St Cuthbert’s to Scotmid
The history of Scotmid Co-operative spans over 150 years. It began in a house in Grove Street, Edinburgh, in July 1859 where 12 men met with the purpose of forming a co-operative society, a practice which was becoming increasingly popular with poor choice and high prices common when dealing with the merchants of the day.

The first St Cuthbert’s Co-operative Association shop opened on 4 November 1859 in Edinburgh, on the corner of Ponton Street and Fountainbridge. The Association had 63 members and capital of just over 30. St Cuthbert’s would go on to become Scotmid Co-operative as we know it today.

1860 - The early years of St Cuthbert’s
The first few years were difficult for the St Cuthbert’s Co-operative Association. Members of the co-operative did not give their full support to their own shop and shopped elsewhere. With reduced sales, increased debt and a vanishing capital, the end of the Association seemed inevitable.

However, through the optimism and determination of the committee, who visited every member to convey the need to give their business to their own store, profits increased and by 1864 the future was looking bright for St Cuthbert’s.

1864 - A landmark year
1864 was a landmark year for St Cuthbert’s, when married women were permitted to join as members. St Cuthbert’s was starting to thrive, with 275 members, quarterly sales of over 1,500 and a profit from the previous three-month period of 110. The co-operative began to expand, opening a new store and bakery on Morrison Street in 1865, followed by two new stores in Dairy and Adam Street in 1877.

1880 - A new headquarters
By December 1880, with rising membership and increasing trade, St Cuthbert’s had outgrown its Fountainbridge premises so a large piece of land was purchased nearby to build new premises. As well as a new shop, the building would accommodate stabling and baking.

The Fountainbridge building was the headquarters of St Cuthbert’s – and later Scotmid – until 2005. In 1883, the ‘Women’s League for the Spread of Co-operation’, later renamed ‘The Co-operative Women’s Guild’, was established. St Cuthbert’s had nine stores by 1886.

1886-99 - Expansion into new businesses
St Cuthbert’s enjoyed a period of significant expansion from 1886-1899. 20 new stores were opened and the co-operative began to expand into new areas of business by opening a new drapery store on Bread Street, a butcher’s shop in Fountainbridge and a coal department. The expansion continued, with the opening of three more drapery stores and new crockery and pharmacy departments. St Cuthbert’s also started selling furniture.

1900-15 - Financial success
From 1900 to 1915, St Cuthbert’s grew even further after it amalgamated with other co-operative societies, including the Northern District, Norton Park, Bonnyrigg and Juniper Green Societies. By 1909, 50 years after it was founded, St Cuthbert’s had become the largest co-operative in Scotland and had the highest sales of any co-op in the UK, paying out over 3.6 million in dividends to its members. During this time the Association’s expansion continued, first with the start of laundry service in 1912, followed by the purchase of the 1,000 acre Cliftonhall Estate to start a farming operation in 1913.

1923 - The most successful Society in Britain
By 1923, St Cuthbert’s still had the highest annual sales of Britain’s co-ops – even though it was only the fifth largest in terms of members. This was also the year that women were admitted to the Board of Management. St Cuthbert’s opened an almost fully automatic bakery in Port Hamilton in 1925, followed by a dairy next door in 1927. The dairy had equipment for the pasteurisation of milk, a practice pioneered by co-op societies in Scotland, and by 1959 was producing 12,000 gallons of milk a day. St Cuthbert’s started its first funeral operation in 1927.

1934-44 - A very famous employee
In 1944, at the age of 13, none other than Sir Sean Connery – then Thomas Sean Connery – started work as a barrow worker in the St Cuthbert’s dairy, at a wage of 21 shillings a week. In 1948, Sir Sean left the Association temporarily for his National Service, making a brief return as a milk horseman until 1950 when his acting career beckoned. St Cuthbert’s was now the largest farming operation in Scotland and the largest cattle feeders in the UK. Recognised for its sheer size and example, St Cuthbert’s had the power to regulate prices in Edinburgh. In 1942, St Cuthbert’s had its first female president, Margaret Bain.

1949 - First self service store
In 1949, St Cuthbert’s was among the pioneers of self-service shopping in Scotland, experimenting first of all in the Dundee Street branch and, soon after, converting the Picardy Street branch to this increasing modern and popular way of shopping. In 1946, 10,000 was granted for the purchase of premises for welfare and education facilities for Association employees. Welfare House in Polwarth Terrace opened towards the end of 1950 as a memorial to Association employees who lost their lives in World War Two.

1959 - 100 years on
St Cuthbert’s celebrated its centenary in 1959 – the same year as it opened Scotland’s first supermarket on Leven Street, Tollcross, just around the corner from the original St Cuthbert’s store. In 1965, the Association’s transport department received the prestigious Royal Warrant for Coach Painting.

The following year the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited St Cuthbert’s transport department and the Queen was presented with a four-wheeled game wagonetta for use at Balmoral. St Cuthbert’s had become the only co-op in Edinburgh by 1966, after amalgamating with the Hillwood, Portobello, Gorebridge, Crofthead and Leith Provident Societies.

1981 - A new Society and a new name
St Cuthbert’s became known as Scotmid in 1981, after merging with the Dalziel Society of Motherwell. The name was changed to reflect the larger geographic area that was covered by the new Society, from the St Cuthbert’s Co-operative Association of Edinburgh to the Scottish Midlands Co-operative Society (the full name for ‘Scotmid’). It was because of this merger that many other co-operative societies throughout Scotland flocked to join forces with Scotmid. These included the Carluke & Law, West Lothian and Bo’ness Societies.

1985 - Horse-drawn milk deliveries end
In 1985, Scotmid made the last horse-drawn milk deliveries in the UK. Scotmid’s horses had been pulling milk carts over Edinburgh for over 100 years. They were more economical than motor vehicles and more reliable, especially in the winter months, but with the rising popularity of buying milk in cartons from supermarkets, it was time for the end of an era. The same year saw Scotmid stores introduce automatic till scanners, barcodes and printed till receipts. Scotmid continued to expand, amalgamating with Penicuik, Uddingston and Prestonpans co-operative societies.

1995 - Semichem is acquired
Scotmid acquired Semichem in 1995. A dedicated stream of investment and marketing saw the chain flourish and expand rapidly and, by 1999, Semichem was operating 80 health and beauty stores, followed by another 27 in Northern Ireland after the Northern Irish Options chain was purchased.

In 1999, the Society expanded its funeral services with the purchase of the Broxburn firm of Thomas Brown. Scotmid closed its non-food department outlets by 2000, marking the beginning of the modernisation of the organisation. The Society continued to grow through amalgamations with other co-operative societies in Scotland, including Bonnybridge, North Tayside and Strathaven Societies.

2003-04 - Scotmid buys Morning, Noon and Night
During 2003 and 2004, Scotmid underwent a rapid period of growth, purchasing eight stores from the Co-operative Group and nine Spar stores in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife. In 2004, Scotmid acquired Dundee-based convenience store chain, Morning Noon & Night in a move that was described at the time as “one of the most significant retail deals in Scotland”. This increased Scotmid’s stores to 120, widening the geographical spread and taking the total workforce to over 4,000. The same year, Scotmid bought the Motherwell funeral firm, Dundas Fyfe.

2005-09 - 150th birthday celebrations
After being based at Fountainbridge for 125 years, Scotmid moved to a purpose-built head office in Newbridge in 2005. Scotmid began to restructure the business after making a loss following the acquisitions, returning to profit in 2009 and winning the prestigious Scottish Grocer’s Social Responsibility Award in 2008 and 2009. In 2009, Scotmid celebrated its 150th birthday. The Society was honoured to receive a civic reception at the City Chambers from the Lord Provost of Edinburgh in recognition of its 150 years of co-operation in Edinburgh. 2009 was also the year that ‘The Academy’ opened at Newbridge, an award winning training facility to develop staff. The same year, Scotmid’s members agreed to a constitutional review to modernise the governance structure, creating new regional committees for the East and West of Scotland.

2010 - The Fragrance House opens
Scotmid acquired the Botterills Convenience Stores chain in 2010, bringing the number of convenience stores owned by Scotmid to 190. Another landmark achievement that year was the start of The Fragrance House, a pilot business venture selling prestige and premium fragrances, with trial stores in Dundee, Livingston, Greenock, Glasgow and Aberdeen. The pilot venture ended in 2015.

2012 - New premium stores
Scotmid opened its first premium convenience store in Warrender Park, Edinburgh, in 2012, marking the start of an important new chapter in its history. The new store format has a larger range of fresh fruit and vegetables, artisan bread, speciality wines and craft beer, an expanded meat and fish section, and new customer services including in-store bakeries, Costa Express, freshly squeezed orange juice. Scotmid Warrender Park won the best multiple store in the UK in 2013 by the Convenience Retailing Awards and the store’s format has been so successful that a further six stores have now been revamped in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife and Aberdeenshire.

2013 - Creation of Lakes & Dales co-operative
Scotmid extended its business into northern England, merging with Penrith Co-operative in 2013 to create Lakes & Dales co-operative. We have nine Lakes & Dales co-operative stores across Cumbria and County Durham.

2015 - Scotmid Co-operative today
Today, Scotmid is Scotland’s largest independent co-operative, with 350 retail outlets in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of England. We have 5,000 staff across Scotmid, Semichem, Lakes & Dales co-operative, funeral branches, post offices and our property department. We are still a co-operative society and we are still owned by our members, who each have an equal say in how we are run. We are true to our co-operative values and principles we are committed to supporting our local communities.

Values & Principles

Scotmid is a co-operative society, which means that we are guided by the values and principles adopted by all co-operatives. We aim to provide the best possible services for our members and to invest in the communities where they live.

Our values:

Self-help – we help people to help themselves.
Self-responsibility – we take responsibility for our actions.
Democracy – we give our members a say in the way we run our business.
Equality – all members get one vote no matter how much money they invest.
Equity – we carry out business in a way that is fair and unbiased.
Solidarity – we share interests with our members and other co-operatives.
Our principles – putting values into practice:

Voluntary and open membership
membership is open to anyone aged 16 and over as long as they live in an area served by Scotmid.

Democratic member control
all members have an equal voice in making policies and electing representatives.

Member economic participation
all profits are controlled democratically by members and for their benefit.

Education, training and information
co-operatives educate and develop their members as well as their staff.

Autonomy and independence
co-operatives are always independent, even when they enter into agreements with Government and other organisations.

Co-operation amongst co-operatives
co-operatives work together to strengthen the co-operative movement as a whole.

Concern for community
co-operatives work to improve and develop the community, locally and internationally.

What is a Co-operative?

Co-operatives are owned and run by their members, for their members. As well as giving members an equal say and share of ownership, a co-operative works together to meet their common needs and goals.

Being a co-operative is what makes Scotmid Co-operative different from other businesses. Instead of making profits for shareholders, we aim to provide the best possible services for our members and to invest in the communities where they live. This is the co-operative difference and it is part of our values and principles.

There are many co-operatives around the world in lots of different industries – from film production to farming, banking to building, and everywhere in between. Over 35 million people in the UK and 1 billion people worldwide are members of co-operatives like Scotmid Co-operative.

Scotmid Property

Property Division
Distinct from its retailing activities, Scotmid has a portfolio of investment property which it manages and develops to create a rental income and enhance asset value.

The portfolio is split into two sectors – commercial and residential – and consists of over 400 rental units. The commercial portfolio is predominantly retail units, which are let to other retailers ranging from major national retailers to independent local traders. The residential portfolio consists of 240 flats and is very much concentrated within the city of Edinburgh, which has a thriving private rented

The property portofolio is enhanced where opportunities arise by asset management, investment and development. An example of a recent development is the Rosewell House office building adjacent to our corporate head office in Newbridge, where 20,000 sqft of Grade A office space has been developed on land owned by the Society.

Surplus trading properties and redeveloping existing trading space for investment units also provides opportunities for expanding the Portfolio.

Joint Venture
Like many co-operatives, Scotmid is a property rich business and where property assets are surplus to operational requirements the business may engage with the property development sector in Joint Ventures to maximise assets.

Corporate Responsibility

Scotmid Co-operative was founded with corporate social responsibility (CSR) at the core of its values. We use ten key social and co-operative performance indicators recommended by Co-operatives UK to assess our work in CSR, including supporting local communities and co-operative initiatives, ethical procurement for our products, investing in our people, member democratic participation and environmental initiatives.

As a Co-operative Society we aim to operate our business in line with Co-operative values. Co-operatives UK outline a set of social responsibility indicators which provide a means for measuring this performance. Scotmid has a diverse range of operations so these measures are not always readily available or the most relevant for all our individual businesses. To overcome this, estimates are used where appropriate or we use sample data from our Food convenience business.

Member Economic Involvement
Member economic involvement has remained level at 16% using the data from an independent exit survey carried out by Why Research at a sample of our stores selected from locations across our geographical area. We also ask for customers to give online feedback and from October 2016 we have been asking if the customers providing the feedback have been members. 17% of the responses have stated that they are members which is in line with the percentage via the exit survey.

Member Democratic Participation
176 (2015/16 – 178) members attended the Annual General Meetings on 25 and 26 April 2016 and 165 (2015/16 – 151) members attended the Ordinary General Meetings on 3 and 10 October 2016. Members meetings in the North continue to rotate to provide a greater opportunity for members to participate in meetings.

Staff and Member Training
This year around 24,500 hours (2015/16 – 27,000) of formal staff training took place, an average of 5.73 hours per employee (2015/16 – 6.11). This training included 8,850 hours of e-learning compared to 11,500 hours last year. The overall reduction in training time is related in part to a vacancy in our training team, which created some delays in the training programme but also reflects variation in the e-learning programme which has a three year cycle. The business continues to provide a significant amount of informal training to store colleagues on an ongoing basis.

Members actively participated in a total of 396 hours of training compared with last year’s total of 321.5. The number of training hours per “active” member (where active membership for training purposes has been defined as the number of members attending the AGM) increased to 2.25 hours (2015/16 – 1.81 hours). Following a refresh of the Learning Pathway, new training sessions were offered during the year which were well received.

Staff Injury and Absentee Rates
There was a reduction in reportable accidents involving staff, amounting to 10 occurrences compared to 13 last year. This equates to 0.2% of the average total workforce. There was an increase in reporting of general staff accidents, rising from 182 to 219, which is 5.1% of the average total workforce. This gives a combined total of 5.3% (2015/16 – 4.4%). Our reducing record of significant reportable incidents is likely to be related to the improving accident reporting culture throughout the Society. The improvement of accident reporting helps create better visibility of trends. This allows remedial actions to be carried out e.g. issuing advice bulletins or conducting property repairs which will prevent more significant reportable accidents occurring.

Days lost due to absence amount to 32,945 this year (2015/16 – 30,740) which represents an average of 7.7 days per employee (2015/16 – 6.9). This increase is significant but is likely to be magnified by some long term sickness which we monitor on an ongoing basis. The CIPD absence report highlights that higher figures are reported in a larger workforce. This is an area that is subject to ongoing review by our People and Performance team.

Staff Profile
Scotmid had an average of 4,274 employees in 2016/17 (2015/16 – 4,418). This difference has arisen from some store closures and increased efficiency in stores. Our gender profile is 72% female and 28% male which is slightly altered from 2015/16 when the figures were 74% and 26% respectively.

Ethnicity statistics were updated this year following a full staff survey in 2015/16. The response level has been reasonable however this survey continues to be refined.

Ethnic Origin % of workforce
Asian 1.3
Black 0.2
Other 0.3
White 98.2
Total 100

The ethnic mix of our staff is representative of the communities which we operate in, with the highest levels of ethnic minority colleagues reported in our urban locations in line with national demographics.

Customer Satisfaction
Harris International Marketing conduct a convenience store survey annually which we participated in during 2016. This survey has shown an improvement in our customer satisfaction ratings for primary needs to 84% compared to 71% last year. We regularly ask for feedback from our customers so that we can address areas of concern.

Ethical Procurement
The majority of the Society’s purchases are through the Co-operative Retail Trading Group (CRTG) now reformed as the Federal Retail Trading Services (FRTS). The Group remain committed to the principles of sound sourcing, animal welfare, food integrity, health and ecological sustainability as set out in their Sustainability Report published in June 2013.

Investment in Community and Co-operative Initiatives
Our investment in Community and Co-operative initiatives amounted to around 313,000 in 2016/17, compared with 300,000 last year. This amounts to 6.1% of our trading profit (2015/16 – 5.2%).

Childline, our new charity partner was launched in September 2016. Childline, which is part of the NSPCC, has been providing confidential support to young people for 30 years. To date 136,000 has been raised by Scotmid colleagues, customers and members. The purpose of the partnership is to raise funds which will support 75,000 extra contacts with Childline’s volunteer counsellors. In August 2016 a very successful partnership with Alzheimer Scotland and Alzheimer’s Society concluded. A total of 375,000 was raised (243,000 within this financial year) which is a record amount for our charity of the year.

The Environment
Scotmid’s aim to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 (using 2008 levels as a base) has been achieved well ahead of schedule, however the business has continued to invest in energy saving initiatives including the continued roll out of LED lighting, building management systems and specialised software to optimise heating and air conditioning energy use. Our new target is to reduce our gross emissions by 30% by 2020 using the same base.

We continue to report on direct Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in two ways: net emissions (that treat electricity from renewables as zero carbon emissions) and gross emissions (that treat electricity from renewables in the same way as ‘brown’ electricity). GHG includes carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Carbon dioxide emissions are produced as a direct result of burning fossil fuels.

The gross emissions, which includes all energy used, are 21,409 tonnes of GHG (2015/16 – 22,839 tonnes), a reduction of 6% from last year, arising from our ongoing energy saving investment. This includes all our electricity which we purchase from renewable sources.

The Society produced an estimated 2,568 tonnes of GHG (net of renewable sources) from on-site operations compared to 2,574 last year. This equates to 0.6 tonnes of GHG per employee (2015/16 – 0.58 tonnes of GHG). This is broadly level and includes fuel for vehicles in addition to gas usage. The underlying data shows an overall drop in gas usage but an increase in diesel which corresponds to changes in our supply chain in the prior year.

Proportion of Waste Recycled/Reused
We continue to backhaul our waste from Food and Semichem stores. The waste is then processed for enhanced recycling. Our Head Office and Funeral offices recycle cardboard, paper and plastic through our waste uplift provider. As a result we estimate that we have recycled 5,400 tonnes of waste (2015/16 – 4,800). The proportion of waste recycled has risen to 98% compared to 92% last year. Our total waste was higher this year due to three large building clearances.

The estimated figure for waste to landfill is around 100 tonnes compared to 400 tonnes in 2015/16. We are continuing the drive to achieve zero waste to landfill and at 98% we are very close to this target.

Larn more on their web site at:

View their 2017 Annual Report (pdf)

150th anniversary book (pdf)

Return to the Book Index Page


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