25 January 2014
West End Report

Sandra White says a planned Scottish town centre summit could provide an important step in the battle to save our local high streets, writes Ginny Clark.

The summit – to consider the growth in payday lending and gambling business outlets – was announced by the Local Government Minister Derek Mackay last week as part of a debate about revitalising town centres.

And White, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin – who is set to appear at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday when local Say No To Tesco group take their campaign to the Petition Committee – believes this summit could also consider the proliferation of supermarket convenience stores and their effect on retail diversity.

She said: “I’ve been talking to the Say No group since the start of their campaign with regards to the effect the rise in supermarket express stores is having on local traders. There is a problem on our high streets just now with some smaller and independent shops getting driven out. Derek McKay raised this issue at the Scottish Parliament and the summit could be the way forward for the campaign.”

The MSP also confirmed she hoped to appear at the meeting on Tuesday or would give a written submission. Local councillors have given general support to the wider aspects of the Say No To Tesco group’s aims on finding solutions, with one suggestion a retail policy be part of Glasgow’s local development plans.

Say No’s original campaign was set up last summer in response to plans for a Tesco Express – now open – at the base of the new Montague Apartments near Kelvinbridge. But the group soon discovered there was no opportunity to object directly to the store – as the planning process doesn’t allow for distinction between small traders and large organisations provided they are of the correct category – and widened their campaign to address issues of high street diversity.

Following a presentation to Glasgow city council, the matter was debated at the Regeneration and Economy Policy Development Committee last November. Say No then shifted the emphasis of their campaign to focus on planning and development at national level, saying they hoped this might eventually lead to restrictions on the number of supermarket outlets on high streets.

Having collected 2093 online and paper signatures within just a few weeks the group, led by Ellie Harrison, have now been invited to discuss the issues with MSPs at the Scottish Parliament.

At the start of their campaign, Say No organiser Harrison, who lives in Woodlands, listed recent openings of a Sainsbury’s on Great Western Road and Tescos in Maryhill Road, Queen Margaret Drive, Byres Road, Dumbarton Road, Argyle Street and North Street. She said: “This is having a devastating impact on our local businesses. My favourite shops are Garden Fresh Exotics and Roots and Fruits – and I want to help make sure they are saved.”

Say No to Tesco’s Aim

Paula Fraser: “We want planning departments to be obliged to carry out retail impact assessments on smaller retail units and to be able to distinguish between huge corporate supermarkets and small independent traders in the planning process to protect our unique high streets, choice, local economy, jobs and the people who make our communities what they are.”

What the Shopkeepers Say

Garth Gulland, Roots and Fruits, Great Western Road: “There are more supermarkets than churches in this city. We’ve already seen the closure of Heart Buchanan in Byres Road. But it doesn’t stop at local level, as many shops source their fruit and vegetables from the market in the East End. The big supermarkets will bypass Blochairn. They boast about creating jobs but they are also taking jobs away. These supermarkets work on absolute minimum pricing. All the small shops will go – if we don’t do something about it now we’ll be left with nothing.”

Riaz, Day Today, Great Western Road: “I’ve got a wife and three young children. I don’t want to lose my business. But it’s very quiet now, we’ll shut down probably.”

Ginny Clark