A Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) Parliamentary Reception – attended by over 35 MSPs from all parties – has been held at Holyrood to highlight the importance and resilience of the Scottish wholesale sector.
Sponsored by Daniel Johnson, the MSP for Edinburgh Southern, and featuring a keynote speech by Richard Lochhead MSP, the Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade, the reception attracted 120 SWA members and partner organisations from throughout Scotland, including Brian Johnston, general manager of JW Gray in the Shetland Islands.
Colin Smith, SWA chief executive, told the audience: “We represent an industry that is literally the wheels to Scotland’s food and drink supply chain, and yet until Covid hit we were a relatively unknown sector within the Scottish Government and across the Parliament – that’s despite wholesale being vital to food security and its supply into our local communities, our schools, hospitals, tourism, hospitality and leisure outlets.”
He also stressed the wholesale sector’s importance to the Scottish economy and its transition to net zero, adding: “Scotland’s wholesale marketplace is now worth around £3.3 billion, with Scotland representing approximately 10% of the total UK wholesale channel.”
To demonstrate the diversity of the Scottish wholesale sector, six SWA members – Brakes, CJ Lang & Son, Glencrest, Inverarity Morton, JW Gray, Lomond Fine Foods and Mark Murphy – showcased their businesses to MSPs at the event.
Edinburgh-based Mark Murphy, a foodservice supplier of fruit and vegetables and other produce, discussed with MSPs the SWA’s Wholesale Local Food Champion project. Mark Murphy was one of the first wholesalers to get on board with the initiative, the aim of which is to encourage Scotland’s wholesalers to nominate individuals to shape the local sourcing strategy within their business.
Addressing guests and MSPs, Lochhead commented: “Wholesalers play a vital role in connecting Scottish producers with retailers and consumers, ensuring that everyone has access to fresh, high-quality food and drink.”
The minister paid tribute to JW Gray, which had explained the unique challenges faced by island wholesalers partly due to weather-related connectivity issues, and their key role in keeping communities, hospitals and care homes supplied all year round.
Lochhead said: “Wholesalers play an especially important role in the Scottish islands – helping to ensure that islanders have access to the same high-quality food and drink as people on the mainland.”
Highlighting the “important and successful” role the SWA played during the pandemic, he added: “Over the past three years, the SWA has carried out outstanding work to highlight the importance of the wholesale sector to ministers, officials and Parliament. I know how difficult a time that was for many wholesale businesses and I am impressed by the Association’s foresight in planning for the sector’s recovery and strengthening it after the pandemic.
“I am pleased also that the SWA and wholesalers have been working in partnership with the [Scottish Government] food and drink team as well as other trade bodies such as Scotland Food & Drink and Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society to further the success of Scotland’s economic wellbeing.”
Lochhead added: “I think it is important that the Scottish Government has supported and invested in the SWA’s Delivering Growth Through Wholesale programme. This collaboration is helping distribute and grow Scotland’s plentiful food and drink resources, from the local farmer and producer through to some of Scotland’s largest manufacturers.”
Smith concluded the reception by extending an invitation to all MSPs to visit a wholesaler in their constituency to see first-hand the “extraordinary lengths they go to, to ensure we truly are creating a strong, sustainable local food and drink supply chain”.Published Date: November 27, 2023