Name: Irene Bisset.

Age: 58.

What is your business called?

National Pride UK.

Where is it based?


What does it produce, what services does it offer?

National Pride takes redundant land and buildings and transforms them into biodiverse spaces and state-of-the-art facilities that can be enjoyed by the community.

Our first two projects are former coalmines in East Ayrshire and Fife, which will be transformed into eco-therapy wellness parks, and we have other exciting projects in the pipeline across the UK.

Many serious health issues are treated in silos, with disparate symptoms treated separately. We wanted to provide spaces that reflect the current thinking in holistic healing. These parks won’t be the domain of the wealthy - people will be able to access treatments and facilities through our partnership with the NHS.

Community support and investment is at the core of everything we do, and we put profits back into the local communities we operate in.

Nature has become a central aspect of our work. We will be rewilding vast areas and the parks will be carbon net zero plus, meaning that they make a positive contribution. All going well, we hope that both sites will be up and running by 2023.

HeraldScotland: The Eco-Therapy Wellness Park planned at The Barony, outside Auchinleck in AyrshireThe Eco-Therapy Wellness Park planned at The Barony, outside Auchinleck in Ayrshire

To whom does it sell?

Our business model is not about selling, but building partnerships to provide services to local communities.

We collaborate with local authorities, the NHS and community leaders to identify what the local need is and how the regenerated space could best be used.

We then conceptualise the projects and provide the resources and finance to turn those ideas into reality.

What is its turnover?

For the current calendar year turnover will be c£600,000 and will increase from next year onwards when more projects are due to kick start.

How many employees?

We are two co-founders and directors, but have a support team linked to our network of over 1,000 partners including individuals, SMEs, charities, local groups and government organisations to global socially-minded companies with expertise.

When was it formed?

We launched in December 2017 and we were incorporated as a community interest company in June 2018.

Why did you take the plunge?

My business partner and I were consulting after many years in construction insurance and through work with clients in the health care sector, we realised the scale to which there are gaps in the system for treating illnesses such as PTSD – that the traditional approach wasn’t working.

We wanted to use our skills and knowledge in project management, construction and the development of investment proposals to make a big difference in health and social care.

I worked in the insurance industry for 35 years, mainly in construction insurance. I loved working on major infrastructure projects and one highlight was the Forth Replacement Crossing.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We initially self-funded the operations of National Pride and our projects in Fife and Ayrshire have been fully funded to date. Further investment from ethical funders will be introduced to take the projects through to final completion. All projects, because of their size, will be a blend of funding. We also charge as project management consultants which sustains our business model.

HeraldScotland: Landscaping planned for the proposed Eco-Therapy Wellness and Leisure Park at the former St Ninians opencast mine site in FifeLandscaping planned for the proposed Eco-Therapy Wellness and Leisure Park at the former St Ninians opencast mine site in Fife

What was your biggest break?

Being introduced by Hargreaves to the first site we purchased - The Barony in East Ayrshire.

We were instantly awe-inspired and had a clear vision of what could be done there, and it’s so exciting to see that vision of an eco-therapy park progressing into reality.

The site is very significant to the local community and it is important that we honour its heritage as a coal mine, including a devastating accident that occurred there.

My Dad was actually down the mines for 25 years in another part of Scotland and my Mum said that he would be proud of what we are doing. She said he would be very much involved if he was still around.

Another big break was being appointed to advise NHS England on the development of their Healthy New Towns Initiative.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I am totally amazed and humbled by the calibre of the inspiring people we have attracted to join our network and help us to achieve our huge mission.

What do you least enjoy?

I did our own accounting for a while, but I realised that it was more productive for me to be focused on other things, so we now have some support in that area.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish Governments do that would help?

We ask that they not just listen but really hear what we are doing and observe the collective strength of action we and our partners are taking. They can work with bodies like ours to change policy and facilitate real change in the housing, health and social care sectors. Take action, cut through the red tape and the politics. ‘Same old’ doesn’t work anymore.

What was the most valuable lesson that you have learned?

Never to give up even in the darkest hour, tomorrow is another day and the sun will rise again – things happen for a reason and solutions will present themselves when the time is right.

How do you relax?

My dog and I both like long walks and good food. He’s not so keen on red wine but I enjoy a tipple. My guilty pleasure is Coronation Street which is hilarious, sad, annoying yet brilliantly written.