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Bringing the family business community together

Scotland's Oldest Family Firms

30th September 2013 Paul Andrews

Family Business United conducted a recent research project to identify the oldest family firms in Scotland.

The 25 oldest family businesses in Scotland have collectively traded for over 3,700 years according to the latest research undertaken by Family Business United which was sponsored by Close Brothers Asset Management.

  • 50% of the Scottish private sector workforce is employed in family firms (Scottish Family Business Association)
  • 73% of Scottish businesses describe themselves as family businesses 
  • The oldest Scottish family business, John White & Son Ltd, was founded in 1715

Family businesses play a pivotal role in the Scottish economy, with 50% of the Scottish private sector workforce employed in family firms. Equally, 73% of Scottish businesses describe themselves as family businesses. The ‘Oldest Family Businesses in Scotland 2013’ report identifies the oldest 25 family businesses in the country, each of whom have been operating for at least 100 years. These family firms have been trading for an average of 148 years each.  

John White & Son Ltd, a manufacturing business producing weighing solutions, is the oldest Scottish family business, founded in 1715. Its present Managing Director, Edwin White, is the eighth generation to be involved in the business following in the footsteps of his ancestor John White almost 300 years ago. 

Family firms Johnstons of Elgin (founded 1797) and J Hewit & Sons, based in Livingston (1806) complete the oldest three family businesses. 

Additionally, many household and global businesses are some of the most enduring Scottish family businesses. For example, the 25 oldest family businesses include Walkers Shortbread (founded 1898), Baxters (founded 1868) and comic book publisher DC Thomson (1905), as well as  the Denholm Group (founded in 1866), which now employs more than 3,000 people globally and turns over in excess of £250 million.

Commenting on the report launch, Penny Lovell, Head of Private Client Services at Close Brothers Asset Management said: “Family businesses have played a fundamental role in shaping the economic and cultural landscape of Scotland. The innovation and enterprise of family businesses has seen them adapt and thrive through the Industrial Revolution to the Digital Age, and establish themselves as the lifeblood of the Scottish – and wider UK - economy."

"Across the UK as a whole, family businesses now account for almost of a third of UK’s GDP, and as our research demonstrates with the right support, there is no reason why the oldest cannot trade for another 300 years and be just as relevant as in their infancy. At CBAM we are proud to be able to help advise family owned businesses at all stages of their growth and across all areas of financial planning and wealth management. We appreciate how important family business is in the modern age and have developed specific strategies to support them through their journey. Scotland itself has a fine heritage and is a great example of the success of family businesses.”  

Paul Andrews, Founder and Managing Director, Family Business United added: “Enduring businesses such as John White & Son have bucked the apparent trend of ‘shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves’ in three generations. Not only do they each go back over a century, but the family firms identified have also survived two World Wars and numerous recessions, successfully passing from generation to generation too.”

“The impact of these family businesses is wide-reaching and their contribution and involvement with the local communities in which they operate cannot be overstated, and indeed is often overlooked. For hundreds of years, they have been a crucial source of employment and continuity in Scotland, supporting other families and investing in the fabric of the communities in which they operate.  This report goes some way, at least, to celebrating their achievements and providing the recognition that they so deserve.”

Download a copy of the report using the link to the pdf below:


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