The Story of HIT Scotland

Although HIT Scotland was started in 1994, it actually has its roots buried as far back as 1837 when it was part of the Hotel and Catering Benevolent Association (HCBA), now known as Hospitality Action, a UK charity designed to help struggling employees of our industry with grants, housing and other assistance.

 Fergus Chambers and Peter Lederer (Edinburgh Lunch 2018)

Fergus Chambers and Peter Lederer (Edinburgh Lunch 2018)

In 1994, Peter Lederer, then Gleneagles Hotel and Fergus Chambers, then Depute Director, Strathclyde Regional Council, were on the committee of the HCBA Scottish division and realised there was a growing frustration that the money raised here was sent to London and that there did not seem to be a tangible attributable benefit given back to Scotland. So, with a burst of Caledonian, independent spirit they decided to declare an amicable split, underwrite costs for a further 3 years and create a separate charity for Scotland. In 1994 HIT Scotland was born and with the aim of raising money to assist those working and studying in hospitality in Scotland.

It was started with a group of eight founding trustees:

Peter Lederer Gleneagles Hotel
Fergus Chambers – Strathclyde Regional Council
Norman Dunhill – New Lanark Trust
Eric McNally – Commercial Catering Group
David Michels – CEO Stakis Hotels
Charles Philip – W&P Foodservice
Derek Reid - CEO Scottish Tourist Board
John Gordon Todd – CEO Scottish Industrial and Trade Exhibitions

Two of these founding trustees are still with us today, Fergus having been the Honorary Secretary for over 24 years and Peter Lederer, our Patron over the same time span. We should also note that John Gordon Todd is also very much still with us in the spirit and fun we muster at our events!  John later became Todd Gordon, a successful jazz musician and the first Scottish male jazz singer to be booked for the London Jazz festival.

The newly fledged HIT Scotland continued to run events and raise money to give grants to individuals and colleges in the hospitality sector. The sorts of events were golf days, clay pigeon shooting and dinners which proudly raised £5K-£10K on the night.  The first ever dinner was held in 1994 for 300 plus at the Moat House which subsequently became the Crowne Plaza in Glasgow. The first ever speaker was Rev Howard Haslett who had the innate charm and charisma of his home town, Belfast and was the chaplain at the Edinburgh Academy. In a curious quirk of fate, he met David Cochrane even way back then, being the minister to betroth David and Jenny Cochrane in 1993. The networks were stitching together from the start.

And so, HIT Scotland developed and strengthened its networks attracting significant support from corporates and individuals alike. In 2005 David Cochrane was invited to become CEO of HIT Scotland from his post at Springboard and he became the first employee of the charity. Under his guidance and leadership, HIT Scotland grew and developed to meet the industry needs and to become more purposeful in the scholarships it awarded individuals and more tangible in the result being sought from these awards. Such has been the success of these scholarships that other trusts, such as the Frank Mullen Trust, have asked HIT Scotland to manage and distribute their own trust funds in their founder’s name.

The networking opportunities also grew over time to win the respect of government, their agencies, the trade bodies and the professionals working in our sector. Although there are many other charities across the UK serving parts of the hospitality industry, HIT Scotland still is unique and has not been replicated elsewhere.

Since its beginning in 1994, HIT Scotland has raised in excess of £4 million, thanks to our fundraising events, corporate sponsors and the backing of the Savoy Educational Trust and the Crerar Hotels Trust to encourage the development of people working in the hospitality industry in Scotland. We have provided more than 1000 scholarships and 10,000 bursaries.  We host an average of 24 events each year supported by 90 plus volunteers from all sectors of the hospitality industry who participate on the event committees.

Next year HIT Scotland will turn proudly 25 years old and we hope as many people as possible, scholars and their companies, past and present will join with us to celebrate this remarkable charity and resource for our sector and raise a glass with us to the next 25 years.