And I don't blame him for believing it, because it wasn't one of the Daily Mail howler headlines warning that Christmas celebrations will be banned in Scotland after independence (although there are some that wouldn't have a big issue with that!) or moronic MPs warning that all young people studying at English universities will become foreigners in 2026 (gotta admit Maggie will go down in history for that one...).
No. This came from no less an organ than the Financial Times.
It seemed to me from minute one that the story was ridiculous.
Because, while many things in this country do not operate in a free market… electricity, gas, telecoms, etc all seemed to be fixed… in general, the retail industry does seem to be pretty cut throat and if you have the time, energy and transport, you can go round all four getting the cheapest deal on everything. Why would that change?
Of course getting past the ‘Sunesque’ opening paragraph in the FT: “Scottish consumers will pay more for food if they vote for independence in next year’s referendum because Britain’s big supermarket chains plan to raise their prices north of the border, senior executives have warned”, you find that senior executives did nothing of the sort.
The UBC masquerading as BBC, reported in a rare moment of honesty: “Neither Asda nor Morrison’s said they had any plans to raise prices in an independent Scotland”. Meantime, Tesco and Sainsbury’s have distanced themselves from the report.”
The executives of the four large supermarkets reportedly told the FT that they currently absorbed the extra cost of doing business in Scotland into their overall costs. I’m assuming they mean that they accept that trailing everything from their head office to Scotland costs them more distribution, but then that is true of the whole group of islands.
ASDA is based in Leeds; Morrison’s in Bradford. So presumably it costs it very little to distribute food in the North of England, but much more to Shetland or the Scilly Isles, Cornwall. Sainsbury in based in London and Tesco in the home counties of England, so different story there.
The truth is that the supermarkets have warned that if an independent Scottish government increased the cost of doing business, then they would have to look at the prices. However, as the only two parties that might form a government in Scotland are committed to lowering the cost of doing business (the SNP have indicated that they would lower corporation tax, and Labour while in power in the UK did so, with Gordon Brown promising to do it again as soon as he could), that is unlikely to happen.
Business for Independent Scotland has an excellent article here for much more detail.
And what we have learned is that the once reputable Financial Times has sunk to the level of bending the news to suit its agenda. Fortunately their Scottish sales figures are laughably low (35% of the Paisley Daily Express and 20% of the Greenock Telegraph), not a lot of people will have been glued to the story.
If BT quoted it as fact, it says as much about them as it does about the FT?