Two major supermarkets are reconsidering their decisions to boycott a milk price crisis inquiry after they came under pressure from the Scottish Parliament.
The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee (RACCE) chairman, Rob Gibson wrote to Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s urging them to attend the inquiry on 4-5 February. Marks & Spencer immediately reversed its earlier decision not to attend.
But the other two are still considering.
In the letter Mr Gibson warned the retailers that empty seats would be left to emphasise their non-appearance if they failed to attend next week’s sessions.
“The committee hopes that you will reconsider the decision not give evidence to the inquiry into this issue of great importance and interest to people in Scotland,” he wrote.
“We are taking further evidence as part of this inquiry on Wednesday 4 February, at 9.30am, and on Thursday 5 February, at 10.30am, and we expect you to join your fellow retailers and send a representative to one of those sessions.
“Should you decline this request, the committee will set aside a seat for you at one of those meetings to indicate that the invitation to attend was declined. We will also consider compelling attendance,” he added.
Morrisons and Waitrose had previously agreed to give evidence and both Aldi and The Co-operative accepted the invitation in principle and are working on the final arrangements. Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead will also give evidence.
The RACCE has already heard evidence from Dairy UK, dairy farmers from Bute and Castle Douglas, NFU Scotland and processors including Muller Wiseman, First Milk and Graham’s Dairies.
In his letter Mr Gibson added: “We heard in detail of the struggles, challenges and opportunities facing the dairy industry now and in the future.
Retailers obviously play a significant part in this – buying product from producers and processors, and then marketing and selling that product to consumers. As such, we hope to see your company represented at the committee next week for these very important discussions.”