Hamish Walls

He’s a ‘wee bit’ different
He shares an address with the Loch Ness monster and Harry Potter. His home is also the birthplace of golf and rugby. And (no joke) the fictitious unicorn is the national animal. It’s no wonder then that Scotland’s Hamish Walls stands out among CCA’s members.

He’s distinguished himself as the first member from Scotland and the only Hamish on the roster. Then there’s the time difference — he’s usually leaving work about the time most CCA members are arriving. And when it comes to personal favorites, he’s a rugby-loving, haggis-eating, whisky-drinking Scot who loves the wide-open spaces and beautiful Eidon Hills that form the landscape where his home is situated near the Scotland-England border.

Yes, as the Scots might say, he’s a “wee bit” different — in some ways. But, as a marketing specialist for the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS), he’s in sync with cooperative communications peers working in North America and around the world.

In addition to sharing details about himself, Hamish provides a lesson on the cooperative movement and how it’s helping rural Scotland.

Tell me about your employer.
SAOS is Scotland’s expert on cooperative and collaborative strategies, structures and management. We’re a development organization owned by its membership, which comprises businesses constituted in accordance with cooperative principles, or whose primary purpose is to benefit their owners or communities. Our aim is to research, develop and implement mutually owned commercial enterprises that provide increased competitiveness for Scottish farmers and food supply chains.

Are cooperatives common in Scotland?
In agriculture, Scotland has strong co-ops present in almost every sector. Members are drawn from farming and other rural businesses involved in grain storage and marketing; livestock marketing; timber, machinery sharing, labor and training; fresh vegetables and fruit; milk marketing and processing; daffodil bulbs; shellfish; agricultural inputs and farmers’ markets.

What’s the biggest difference between co-ops in Scotland versus the U.S.?
The key difference is scale. Scotland is about the same size as South Carolina so our co-ops are small in relative terms.

How did you learn about CCA?
I learned about CCA while doing research for a co-op communication project. SAOS delivers a range of services to co-ops and one of those is how to improve co-op communications and member relations.

Why did you decide to join CCA?
I joined CCA to see what I could learn from fellow professionals operating in the sector. I always pick up ideas and links from the monthly newsletter and the seminars provide another source of knowledge.

CO-OP CAPSULE

Name: Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society

Headquarters: Throughout Scotland

Description: SAOS ensures that Scotland’s farming, food and drink businesses benefit from the commercial advantages that are achieved through cooperation and collaboration, enabling them to contribute to the success of Scotland’s food and drink industry and rural economy.

What are your job responsibilities?
I am involved in a number of projects at SAOS, but the one occupying much of my time now is the delivery of an effective communications and member relation project. This work takes me to visit our members across Scotland and gives me a chance to help them improve member relations. A typical week involves travel (the scenery is great), meetings and computer time at my home office in Melrose.

What is your greatest communications/marketing challenge?
SAOS’s greatest marketing challenge is to raise the profile and credibility of co-ops and cooperation, and persuade more farmers that it is a competitive strategy they should adopt.

What do you do for fun?
I walk, cycle with my wife, Pippa, on a tandem and read. I recently enjoyed A. J. Baine’s book “The Accidental President” about Harry S. Truman. Boy, did he have some problems to deal with.

If I were to visit your town, Melrose, what would I find there?
You would find the ruins of Melrose Abbey founded in 1136 at the foot of the beautiful Eidon Hills. You will also see Melrose Rugby Club, which is the birthplace of rugby sevens. The game is now played across the globe and is an Olympic sport – all invented in my hometown. You can also visit Abbotsford, home of the famous author Sir Walter Scott.

The three best things about living in Scotland:
space, countryside and friendly people.

If you come to dinner, I’ll cook you a traditional Scottish meal of:
haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties (mashed potato) with a glass of whisky to wash it down.

The most unusual thing you’ll find in my car is:
an old-fashioned map. You can’t always rely on the satnav.

Football, golf or rugby?
Rugby. During the season, I watch Melrose 1st XV most weekends.

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