The big news that didn’t ring true was “Supermarkets to charge more in independent Scotland”. Anti-intuitive, I’d say. Everything I hear about supermarkets is that they specialise in charging less and that’s the model they all pursue, even upmarket Waitrose which charges less for higher quality.
If it’s true that distribution is more expensive the further north you go and they absorb that cost now, why wouldn’t they after independence? Because we’re a “foreign” country? I can find no discrepancies between Tesco UK and Tesco Ireland on pricing, although you do have to take account of the exchange rate when comparing.
They don’t operate such a pricing system now so it would be a political decision by a retail outlet, unless of course it faced higher costs imposed by local regulations. There is another problem because supermarkets are keenly competitive with each other and would naturally want to offer the best deal. So I don’t see them operating as a cartel and as soon as a general price rise went on, the opposition would undercut. http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/supermarket-prices-may-fall-after-independence/
Then we find the individual stores complaining that they didn’t say they would charge more and some say they didn’t even speak to the Financial Times who reported it. Yet the FT isn’t a paper given to making it up. So why would supermarket bosses lead them to believe this was a story worth covering only to deny it afterwards? I suspect political pressure from the British government which will ratchet up from now on. You don’t have to back it up, merely put it out there, to do the damage. It becomes de facto reality when it appears as a headline and then is denied. It will hang there like a bad smell in the debate and will reappear in studio discussions and reinforce the view that prices will rise. Media departments at big companies will say there has been no statements or meetings because that’s all they will know. But if its your chairman or chief executive secretly meeting with journalists to give them a line, you can truthfully say you have no information.
One detail in Robert Peston’s report struck me as odd. The supermarkets told him that even poor people in the south eat more fresh produce than wealthy people in Scotland. That is clearly rubbish and how they could prove it, I’d like to know. There is another possibility – that more fresh produce is bought from local high street shops in Scotland. All the supermarkets know and care about is what they sell. I’m not sure either if I were boss of Tesco that I’d provoke public opinion more that I had to. Tesco’s reputation is very poor as it opens up on every street corner, incidentally charging more for the same products in Tesco Extra than in superstores.
And how much do you believe the Peston line that the supermarket bosses were so cowed of SNP ministers that they dare not tell them the truth about pricing? Does that sound like the aggressive, competition-closing supermarket kings to you?
Independence or not, the market will dictate prices in Scotland which means some items may be dearer and others less, just as you find now and that principle means there is a reward awaiting the first supermarket chain to announce there will be no automatic price rises in its stores after independence. If Lidl get in first, just wait for the others to follow.
I think this story can be filed along with the annexing of Argyll, a propaganda tool that blows up in your hands.