Beyond the ‘Invergordon approach’: community cooperatives and economic security in the Scottish Highlands and Islands (1977-1991)

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Following a meeting of the Federation of Councils of Social Service (CSS) in December 1969, Chairman, Sheriff Alistair Macdonald, commented on the unity of purpose within the CSS in the Highlands and Islands, whose members ‘from Shetland to Barra’ had met to ‘inform and help each other’, seeking to ‘get across the grass-roots reality to those who shape development policy’. Macdonald emphasised that the particular interest of the CSS in the Highlands and Islands was, ‘small communities whose problems don’t lend themselves to the Invergordon approach’. These comments, referring to an approach to employment security that favoured large-scale, single investments aimed at mass employment, were part of sustained correspondence between the CSS and the Highlands and Islands Development Board (HIDB) in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, increasing pressure on the HIDB to act on their social development remit. Amidst these discussions, the Wheatley Report (1969), recommending the reorganisation of Scottish Local Government (effective 1975), was likewise focusing minds on the role of ‘community’ in the future of the Highlands and Islands. Letters, telephone messages, and internal HIDB memos capture the mobilisation of community voices that were seeking to influence new and evolving agencies and local authorities in the Highland’s and Islands, advocating for local economic development that was less dependent on external investment and instead invested in developing local capacity for community-led job creation. This endeavour culminated in the launching of the HIDB’s community co-op scheme in 1977, which is the focus of this article.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-165
Number of pages23
JournalScottish Labour History
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2023


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