.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Tesco profits an election issue?

Here is a press release which Ihave been releasing today to try and tie up withTesco announcing record profits again.

Tesco an election issue in key marginal?

The new seat of Dumfries and Galloway is the most marginal constituency in Scotland. In 2001 , Peter Duncan became the only Scottish Tory MP. To have any credibility as a UK party, the Tories have to ensure Peter wins on 5th May. But the new seat now includes the region's only urban centre- Dumfries. This gives Dumfries and Galloway an even split between rural Tory and urban Labour heartlands. Using the 2001 results, Labour' s Russell Brown is predicted to win- but by only 141 votes...

The small market town of Castle Douglas lies at the centre of Dumfries and Galloway. For the past three years, Castle Douglas has been promoting itself as Scotland's first 'Food Town' - promoting the use and sale of quality local produce as a way to support a rural economy still based on farming and food processing. [see www.cd-foodtown.org ]

But, despite a year long fight by supporters of the Food Town, supermarket giant Tesco have bulldozed an out of town centre superstore through the planning process. Realistically, the outcome was never in question. Council planners had tried to resist a Tesco megastore on the edge of Dumfries, but after a final appeal to the Scottish Executive, it opened in September last year.

Dumfries and Galloway Council have a revenue of £250 million/ year. Tesco's profits are £2 billion / year. It was clear from day one that the Council planners were not prepared to take on Tesco again. Potential objectors were told "Don't waste your time. Tesco are going to come, no matter what you do.". Tesco, it seems, are now just too big to be held in check by planning laws. This challenges local government and local democracy. If there was never any doubt that Tesco would get their superstore, then Tesco are effectively able to operate outside the law.

Is this the future for similar small communities across the UK? Apparently it is. Having built as many big stores as they can, Tesco are now targeting small towns like Castle Douglas. Tesco's urge to market dominance appears unstoppable. This is not a local issue, it is a national one. If local government is helpless before Tesco, then national government must intervene. But there is no sign of this happening. Are Tesco now so big even Westminster cannot keep them in check? It looks like it.

What can be done? In Dumfries and Galloway, voters have a chance to make Labour and Conservatives pay attention. Last year, Scottish Green Party candidate John Schofield personally persuaded over 1000 people to object to the Castle Douglas Tesco. Most objectors came from Galloway, but many came from Dumfries, where the new Tesco is devastating the town centre. John has made his opposition to Tesco a key feature of his campaign.

Even if only a few hundred voters feel strongly enough about this local issue to vote Green, those are votes both Peter Duncan and Russell Brown desperately need. Alistair Livingston of anti-Tesco campaign group ‘Save our Stewartry Shops’ has written to Peter Duncan and Russell Brown pointing out that in the run up to May 5th, objectors to Tesco will have nationally significant opportunity to push for greater democratic control over Tesco.

Note on below: same letter sent to Russell Brown, only the name has been changed...

11 April 2005

Peter DuncanPPC Dumfries and Galloway

23 June 2005 - a date for your diary?

Dear Peter,
Vicky Hird of Friends of the Earth rang me last Thursday to invite me to attend an MP’s briefing in London on 23rd June. The briefing will precede Tesco’s AGM on the 24th. The MP’s briefing will focus on an independent ‘Corporate Responsibility Report’ on Tesco which FoE have commissioned. The Castle Douglas Tesco saga will be included in this Report, hence my invitation to attend.

On Friday 8th April, by a vote of 12 to 3, Dumfries and Galloway Planning and Environment Committee gave final planning approval for a Castle Douglas Tesco. The three councillors who voted against were Dumfries councillors. Based on their experience of the destructive impact of the new Dumfries Tesco on their town centre, they were convinced that Tesco will damage ‘the vitality and viability’ of Castle Douglas and other communities in the Stewartry.

The decision surprised no-one. As you know, I have been campaigning, lobbying and objecting via the planning process against the development for year now. From day one, every single person I spoke to, even those who were determined opponents, said “It is a done deal. Tesco will come.” Effectively, that Tesco are too big and too powerful to be checked by any local planning procedures.

No doubt naively, I disagreed. I believed, and still believe, that an objective assessment of a Tesco in Castle Douglas would show an adverse impact on the vitality and viability of local town centres and villages - not just on Castle Douglas itself. Indeed, that the new store would have an impact on the prospects for regenerating Dumfries town centre since it is freely admitted it will draw trade away from Dumfries. But these arguments, indeed all arguments against the development, simply were brushed aside.

Five years ago (22nd June 2000) I suggested in a letter to the Galloway News that Castle Douglas should become a Food Town as an effective and practical way to link three key local industries together- farming, food processing and tourism. The long term aim was to build a broader marketing and promotion strategy around a regional ‘food branding’ initiative.

The success of Buccleuch Heritage Foods ( based in Castle Douglas) and the ‘Savour the Flavour of Dumfries and Galloway’ campaign show the potential for such an approach. The success of Castle Douglas as a Food Town, which according to Andrew Henderson of Tesco( based on Tesco’s own market research) now has national recognition, shows I got it tight 5 years ago.

I have fought so long and hard against the Castle Douglas Tesco. I strongly believe that Tesco’s ’global’ business strategies work against such attempts to nurture and develop healthy and dynamic local economies and local communities.

Dumfries and Galloway is a nationally significant marginal seat. Tesco (£2 billion profits to be announced this week) are a nationally significant retailer. Are Tesco now beyond democratic control? It is a question perhaps only a few hundred concerned voters will ask about the Castle Douglas Tesco issue, but those votes may well decide which MP I meet in London on the 23rd June.

Yours sincerely

Alistair Livingston


Post a Comment

<< Home