It passed virtually without notice. Last week it emerged that Asda was suffering from the Supermarket price war.
The supermarket chain has just experienced its worst quarterly performance ever. Discount food stores such as Aldi and Lidl have bitten into the chain’s grocery market.
In June, the chain’s owners Walmart ousted the UK supermarket’s chief executive, Andy Clarke, from his position. Things hadn’t gone well for Asda under Clarke who steered Asda to seven successive quarters of decline.
Clarke should be familiar to supporters of Scottish independence. Seven days before the indyref vote took place he claimed that a Yes vote would see prices rise.
On September 11th 2014, he said: “It will be no surprise to voters that, if Scotland votes for independence, it would be imperative to establish a separate Scottish business. Currently, our systems are set up for one single UK market, we use the same currency and we operate under the same rates of VAT. By operating in a market serving 63 million customers we achieve major efficiencies and economies of scale.
“If we were no longer to operate in one state with one market and – broadly – one set of rules, our business model would inevitably become more complex. We would have to reflect our cost to operate here.
Clarke added: “This is not an argument for or against independence, it is simply an honest recognition of the costs that change could bring.”
Unionists seized on the comments. In a memorable photo-shoot a joyous looking Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont posed outside an Asda store where she promised shoppers they’d get ‘more change’.
BBC Scotland headlined the nonsense as a warning on its news site. It broadcast the views of the key Better Together figure on that evening’s Reporting Scotland.
Price rises were a key feature of media news coverage in the days leading up to the indy vote. It later emerged that the ‘price rise’ warning had been prompted by a request to businesses from then UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
Just as Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons and Tesco have squeezed out Asda in this post-No vote Scotland, so they would have done the same had we voted yes back in 2014. Any company increasing its prices would have lost business to its competitors.
And so another key plank of the Better Together campaign collapses under the weight of reality. One wonders what Asda will say in the event of a second independence referendum? One also wonders if the chain will still be operating in Scotland.
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