WITH Standard Life switching from its ancient mutual status into a plc, the game may seem to be up for the mutual model - private entities that are owned by their membership rather than shareholders.
I am a firm admirer of the dividend-paying company over other versions of human collaboration. Companies are the best institutions we have evolved to serve everyone.
Yet I see rich opportunities in Scotland to use the mutual model to liberate and activate many of our sleepiest institutions. Some live in a twilight world - not quite businesses. They are camouflaged as charities. Others are arms of the Scottish Executive and ought to be set free of the stifling civil service ethos.
One example of ambiguous status is Scotland's independent schools. In law they are charities. I think they could convert into mutual societies and rethink their roles.
Some Labour Party Jacobins want to remove their charitable status. This is simply class jealousy but it could make schools more agile. Teachers as owners would be different people. They could double or treble their incomes, though dud teachers would not endure.
The mutuals that do still prosper are mostly our friendly societies, of which Scottish Friendly is the most lively. The regulations need to be relaxe