AUCHRANNIE, the Isle of Arran-based resort, has completed its transition into employment ownership in a move designed to safeguard its future as an independent business.

The Johnston family have transferred the ownership of the luxury hotel and leisure destination to Auchrannie’s 160 employees, nearly 30 years after Iain and Linda Johnston acquired the hotel in 1988. It is understood to be the first hotel or resort in Scotland to make the move into employee hands.

The transfer has been made to retain the community-focused ethos of the resort established by Linda and Iain Johnston, who have played a key role in the promotion of tourism on the Isle of Arran. Mr Johnston passed away in 2015, but Auchrannie managing director Linda Johnston will continue to lead the Brodick-based business once the transition is complete. The rest of the current management team will also remain in place.

An employee ownership trust has been set up to hold 100 per cent of the shares in Auchrannie on behalf of staff. The deal was structured to make it affordable to the business without affecting the ability to reward staff and reinvest in the hotel. Auchrannie has seen continual reinvestment by the Johnston family running into tens of millions of pounds. Having been broadly run as a guesthouse with 16 bedrooms, with 27 holiday huts, when the Johnstons acquired the business, the resort now spans two four-star hotels, 30 five-star self-catering lodges with two leisure clubs and three individually-branded restaurants. Facilities now also include the children’s Playbarn, ASPA spa and the Arran Adventure outdoor company.

The latest accounts for Auchrannie, filed at Companies House last month, revealed a 64 per cent increased in pre-tax profits to £308,982 in the year ended March 31. The company cited improved occupancy, now higher than 90 per cent, cost control and the impact made by room and restaurant refurbishments over the period, with turnover climbing to £7.2m from £6.7m.

Ms Johnston said: “We first started looking at employee ownership in 2015 and the first formal meetings were held in early 2016. Many exit options were considered over the years but none protected the ethos of the company, the existing team or the community use of Auchrannie’s facilities for future generations like employee ownership did.

“The team have been involved in the process from an early stage and were given the opportunity to input throughout. They have very much embraced the concept of employee ownership and are extremely exited about it.”

There are now 92 employee-owned companies with about 7,000 employee owners in Scotland, turning over around £930m

Sarah Deas of Co-operative Development Scotland said a “change to the ownership of a resort like Auchrannie could seriously affect the economy of the whole island.

“The change to employee ownership means the team at Auchrannie and the community of Arran can relax knowing that it will always remain an independent, locally run organisation with community values at heart.”