More than a pub - support for community pub ownership

Red Lion Inn, Culross
Alan Robertson

This year Scottish Rural Network (SRN) continue to support Community Led Local Development (CLLD) through a range of projects and activities.

One of the approaches we’ve taken is to support rural and island communities seeking to develop community assets by working in partnership with the Plunkett Foundation. Their expertise in this areas has allowed us to focus on community ownership of pubs and shops.

Over the financial year (2022-23) we have provided funding to the Plunkett Foundation to work with Community Shares Scotland and Cooperative Development Scotland, to support the growing community pubs network in Scotland through a series of free training events, expert advice and networking activities. This builds on the work initiated and funded in 2021-22.  

In mid-November 2022, Plunkett Foundation, along with partners Co-operative Development Scotland and Community Shares Scotland, organised a visit to The Red Lion Inn in Culross, Fife. The pub has recently made the transition from planning and fundraising to trading, being taken into community ownership earlier this year. Its doors have now been open to its community and other visitors for several months.

On a day on which heavy rain and floods prevented several of those who planned to join the visit from making it, Plunkett were joined by seven intrepid explorers from other community pub groups, some of whom are already trading but most are either just starting to explore the community ownership route, or are in the process of raising the funds to buy their local pub.

The day was an opportunity to take a tour of the Red Lion and hear from members of its community about the journey to trading, learnings along the way and plans for the future. It was also a chance to enjoy some of the pub’s lovely food and appreciate its unusual painted ceiling which reflects a historic link with The Netherlands.

The Red Lion Inn is the biggest employer in the community and, like all other good community businesses, is careful to complement, rather than compete with other businesses in the area. It’s also keen to plug gaps that the community has identified, and once the busy ‘post-opening’ period has begun to settle, a plan will be developed looking at ‘More Than A Pub’ activities that could be offered. The pub is already providing a Christmas lunch for local seniors and plans are afoot to install cycle racks, e-bike charging facilities and two EV charging points.

Plunkett adviser Alison Macklin talked to the group about community engagement, business plans and financial projections and the group shared ideas around the practicalities of running a community owned pub including the differences between managed and tenanted models.

Sharon Makin from Kingsbarns Community Development Trust (The Inn at Kingsbarns) said of the day:

“I found the event really useful and felt more confident taking our project forward afterwards. It was good to hear others’ experiences and to have someone there with expertise to answer our questions. I came out feeling inspired!”.

Funding from Scottish Rural Network, part of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Rural Development Programme, has enabled Plunkett to offer free business advice, support, training and networking opportunities to community owned pubs across Scotland and they would welcome calls from anyone at any stage of the journey to trading.

Plunkett’s Community Business Team can be reached on 01993 630 022 or

Find out more about the organisations involved at the links below:

Plunkett Foundation

Co-operative Development Scotland

Community Shares Scotland