SWA chief executive Colin Smith recently spoke at the Scottish Wholesale Association Parliamentary Reception at Holyrood, where the importance and resilience of the Scottish wholesale sector was discussed as well as to help politicians gain greater understanding about all channels of Scotland’s food and drink sector.
Attended by MSPs across all parties, the event was sponsored by Daniel Johnson, the Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern and featured a keynote speech by Richard Lochhead MSP, the Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade.
Attended by 120 SWA members and partner organisations along with over 35 MSPs, the Parliamentary Reception saw Colin Smith, SWA chief executive, tell his 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 around the Garden Lobby with MSPs speaking to representatives to learn more.
Before introducing Richard Lochhead, Mr Smith paid tribute to the Scottish Government for its financial support during the pandemic when the economy closed down and with it 50% of the wholesale sector.
“Securing £20m of direct wholesale support grant funding from the Scottish Government was truly a cross-party achievement and testament to those within the government and the opposition who spent time working with us to understand our channel and how our businesses were being impacted,” he said.
“However, we were always clear that the funding wasn’t there just to ensure members survived – it was there to ensure post-Covid that members had the ability to rebuild a strong and sustainable local food and drink supply chain.”
Addressing guests and MSPs, Mr Lochhead said: “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.”