Morrisons has become the first of the Big Four supermarket giants to suggest it could slash food prices in an independent Scotland.
This comes after mounting concern over food prices if Scots vote for independence next year, with supermarket executives reported by the Financial Times to be planning to hike prices to pay for high distribution costs.
The Scottish government insist that plans to cut fuel duty and reduce corporation tax would more than balance the cost out. Morrisons said it was “wrong” to say they were planning to hike food prices, with a spokesman telling Newsnet Scotland: “If an independent Scotland increased or decreased regulation or taxes we’d have to take a second look at our pricing. Clearly that could work for or against Scottish customers depending on the direction of travel.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Asda said the supermarket chain had no plans to increase food prices in the wake of Scotland gaining independence in next year’s referendum.
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The furore has seen campaigners for Scottish independence threaten to boycott Asda and Morrisons, with others expressing fury at Tesco and Sainsbury’s, the other big supermarket chains.
A Tesco spokesperson told the Huffington Post UK no executive had spoken to the Financial Times for their report suggesting supermarkets would increase prices, adding: “We’ve got a great business in Scotland and our job is to create the best offer for customers whatever the outcome of the referendum.”
The article reported Morrisons’ chief executive Dalton Philips: “If the regulatory environment was to increase the burden of the cost structure on business, that would potentially have to be passed through to consumer pricing, because why should the English and Welsh consumer subsidise this increased cost of doing business in Scotland?”
Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, told the Huffington Post UK: “Food prices are rising already. Scotland hasn’t got the most benign of climates to do business.
“The supermarkets here are rattling their cages. Scots would be well advised to start thinking about their own food security.”
In response to the news, Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “This story has quickly disintegrated – Tesco made it clear to the BBC this morning that they have made no such comments regarding independence, while Asda and Morrisons have both said that they have no plans to increase prices.
“The No campaign’s claims have completely backfired, as Asda have also made clear that their comments also apply to the powers devolved to Scotland in the 2012 Scotland Act – something brought in by the Westminster parties in advance of independence!
“The reality is that independence will provide the means to create a prosperous economy and better business environment, one that will deliver benefits for consumers and retailers alike – and supermarkets can look forward to a thriving future in Scotland under all constitutional circumstances.
“Supermarkets operate in competition with each other, and you can be sure if one supermarket chain has higher prices – for whatever reason – then their competitors will not be slow to take advantage of that.”
Source: Huffington Post