Scotland’s finest family firms honoured by The Herald

It is one of Scotland’s most recognisable brands and last night, Sir Jim Walker, chairman of Aberlour-based Walker’s Shortbread received the prestigious Outstanding Contribution award at The Herald Scottish Family Business Awards 2023, in association with Business Gateway.

The award was sponsored by Strathclyde Business School and Sir Jim, who was knighted in last year’s New Year’s honours list, was recognised for his services to Scottish commercial life while at the helm of his family’s 125-year-old business.

The award was the highlight of an evening dedicated to the achievements of Scotland’s family business sector and host Bryan Burnett welcomed representatives from hugely varied concerns to a celebration that included live music with a performance by Scotland’s Divas.

During the evening a special 85th birthday mention was given to Elizabeth Equi, whose family established their award-winning company in Hamilton in 1914.

Many of the winners last night could trace their company roots back for generations, while for others the work of establishing a legacy has only just begun. What they all had in common, however, was a desire to see their businesses play a part within their communities, providing employment and social cohesion while delivering the highest possible standards of products and services.

Amongst them was Cobbs, the hotels, cafes, gift shops and bakery chain that has expanded rapidly to become a major player in Scotland’s hospitality sector and which last night was named winner of the Fastest Growing Family Business award, sponsored by Business Gateway.

Beatson’s Building Supplies Ltd, which started off in Alloa and now has branches in Cumbernauld, Penicuik, Dunfermline and Stirling won the Business Innovation Award, while Hebrides Cruises, which operates small-vessel cruises throughout the Hebrides, won in the Customer Service Excellence category.

The company has gathered a legion of enthusiasts for its wildlife cruises, where passengers get the chance to explore secluded bays and open stretches of water that are home to some of Scotland’s most exciting wild birds, marine creatures and animals and for its hard work Hebrides Cruises was also named Scottish Family Business of the Year (Micro), sponsored by Business Gateway.

It was back on dry land for the Green Family Business of the Year award, which was won by We hae meat, the Girvan-based butchery firm that produces burgers, sausages and puddings in its custom-built premises, which are powered by energy generated on-site. Such great strides have been made in this process, that the company will soon be carbon neutral.

This company impressed the judges so much that it also picked up the Scottish Family Business of the Year (small – medium) title, sponsored by Virgin Money.

For decades, Allied Vehicles Ltd from Glasgow have been making life easier for countless numbers of people with their large range of specially-adapted cars and commercial vehicles. They are the biggest supplier in the UK, with work carried out by their 650 employees. They are also keenly aware of their roots and in recent months alone have assisted Quarriers and local youth groups. This dedication last night earned them the Commitment to the Community award.

For many towns, villages and islands up and down Scotland’s west coast, a reliable supply of goods is essential to keeping services operating and since 1978 Maclennan Distribution has been a household name in some of Scotland’s most isolated communities.

It began life on Tiree and now operates out of a base in Oban and last night its contribution to life along the Atlantic coast last night earned it the Rural Family Business of the Year award.

For family businesses of all sizes, successful succession takes careful planning, but where it is handled sensitively the continuity that it brings to an organisation is invaluable. At Spectrum Service Solution, Rebecca Bell has made her mark on her family’s business in her role as Operations Director, and her efforts were recognised when she won the Next Generation Award.

Meanwhile, Spectrum’s Regional Operations Manager, Helen Love, was named winner of the Recognition Award. Leading timber expert, The Donaldson Group, now comprising of 16 specialist market-leading businesses that trade and operate independently, won the Scottish Family Business of the Year (Large) category and the Judge’s Award went to Brenda Horne, Environmental Manager of Direct Waste Management who are based in Peterhead.

Speaking afterwards, Hugh Lightbody, Chief Officer, Business Gateway, said: “My hearty congratulations go out to all the award winners. Their dedication, resilience and commitment to excellence shone through, and is a testament to the enduring strength of family businesses across Scotland.”

And David Henderson, Head of Strategic Finance, West of Scotland, Virgin Money, said: “Virgin Money have been delighted to continue our support for this fantastic evening of celebration and it was great to see so many high quality family businesses recognised for their achievements, both as shortlisted finalists and award winners. Huge congratulations and well done to everyone involved.”

Whilst presenting the Outstanding Contribution Award on the Evening, Director of Growth Programme for Strathclyde Business School, John Anderson said: “Strathclyde Business School is very pleased to continue to sponsor this category and celebrate the outstanding contribution that multi-generation family businesses make to the Scottish economy…I believe that family businesses are the original responsible businesses and tonight’s finalists and winners have proved this – across the board – with visible commitment to people, planet and profit – the triple bottom line – and to simply doing the right thing.”

The Herald Scottish Family Business Awards 2023 in Association with Business Gateway held at the Doubletree by Hilton, Glasgow Central. Host Bryan Burnett with winners and highly commended recipients
Photograph by Colin Mearns
7th December 2023