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Business / New Co-op supermarkets would lead to ‘poorer quality of life’, local food group claims

SHETLAND Food and Drink, the company promoting local food and produce, has again voiced concern over plans by the Co-op retail group to build to new supermarkets in the isles.

The membership company, representing around 80 local producers and associated businesses, warns of a weakened local economy and a poorer quality of life should the proposals be approved by the council.

The Co-op has always said it would stock local produce and enhance the shopping experience by adding convenience stores in Scalloway and Sandwick to their existing supermarkets in Lerwick and Brae, as well as creating new jobs.

Shetland Food and Drink chair Marian Armitage.

The property developer behind the move has meanwhile reminded the planning authority that competition between businesses is not a material planning matter.

Shetland Food and Drink (SFAD) is now calling for Shetland Islands Council to explain how it will manage “local food sector job losses, rural depopulation, increased food import carbon emissions, and diminished Shetland-wide food security” arising from the Co-op’s expansion plans.

SFAD chair Marian Armitage said: “Shetland’s abattoir, dairy and local food and drink businesses are vital, fragile building blocks of island life.

“Exposing these already vulnerable businesses to further external competition risks losing them forever.

“As the world wakes up to the importance of local food security, Shetland Islands Council may be about to strike at the heart of a prized, intact islands-wide food system that has taken generations to develop.”

The company’s vice chair Bo Simmons said that, in SFAD’s view, the proposed developments were contradicting the spirit of local plans and initiatives designed to protect existing businesses and promote living, working and investing in Shetland.

“At a time when supermarkets can’t be relied upon to deliver consistent supplies, and when quality Shetland food and drink is establishing a growing profile on the international stage, it’s more important than ever to back local producers and businesses first,” the local food veteran said.

“These assets are costly and difficult to restore once they’re lost.”