More than 80 per cent of businesses in Scotland are family concerns. And they are a huge benefit to all

Success, they say, is relative. And judging by the success of many long-established Scottish family businesses, it is hard to argue with that truism.

For it almost seems as if Scottish family businesses are revelling in the generation game and setting out to disprove the ‘from clogs to clogs in three generations’ Lancashire proverb of the late 19th century warning that the energy and ability required to raise someone’s material status from poverty is often not continued into the third generation.

There are numerous examples of family firms in Scotland that continue to flourish far beyond the third generation.

Indeed, the oldest family firm in Scotland, John White & Sons, a leading UK supplier of weighing solutions, dates as far back as 1715. That means it celebrated its tercentenary in 2015.

John White & Sons is just one of more than 280,000 family businesses in Scotland – more than 80 per cent of all businesses – which together employ some 874,000 people.

As Paul Andrews, founder and CEO of Family Business United points out, collectively family businesses in Scotland make a massive contribution to GDP and to the Exchequer.

“In terms of jobs, wealth creation and income, they’re a phenomenal force and, on top of that, many of them have been entrenched in their communities for generations,” he said.

“You only have to look at companies like Walkers Shortbread in Aberlour or Johnstons of Elgin where they have multiple generations of family working together as part of the business. Those businesses have become the essence of the places where they were established and continue to thrive today, so that impact is massive.”

Andrews suggests that family firms typically take a longerterm view than non-familyowned firms. “Family businesses are not driven by the next shareholders’ report or financial return in the next quarter, they take a long-term financial perspective which means they’re investing in the future, not just for their own businesses, they’re investing in Britain.

“If you look at how family businesses perform, they adapt and change. They’ve been around for generations, and they must innovate continually. They care. And they make massive investments in sustainable practices.

“They’re the stewards of future generations and they need government bodies and the powers that be to adopt a similar approach to help businesses survive for the longer term and plan now for the next two or three generations.”

Andrews bemoans the fact that family businesses do not receive the credit they deserve for the contribution they make to the Scottish economy. “Not only do they all contribute significantly to the economy in terms of employment, income generated and wealth created, but they have a major impact on the communities in which they operate, as they have done for many years and across multiple generations of their families too,” he said.

“These businesses have been around for generations and hopefully will remain as family businesses for many generations to come.”

Scotland’s 10 oldest family firms

1. John White & Son (1715)

2. Rankin Brothers & Sons (1774)

3. Macnaughton Holdings (1783)

4. Thomas Taylor (Bowls) (1796)

5. Johnstons of Elgin (1797)

6. J. Hewit & Sons (1806)

7. Christies (Fochabers) (1820)

8. James Jones & Sons (1838)

9. Thomson’s Coffee Roasters (1841)

10. C&W Summers Glazing (1848)

(Source: Family Business United)