Major supermarkets are now the “barons of politics”, according to First Minister Alex Salmond, who was speaking after MSPs voted down plans to introduce a so-called “Tesco tax”. The levy would have brought in an extra £30m a year – with £23m of that from the largest supermarket chains. But Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories branded the plan “anti-competitive”. The retailer Sainsbury’s would have paid £2.5m more a year, the equivalent of its hourly profit, Mr Salmond said. “And yet they moaned about having to pay the additional sum to help everyone in difficult circumstances,” he told. When asked why opposition parties – other than the Greens – did not support the proposal, Mr Salmond said: “The supermarkets have the most enormous lobbying power. “I think they are the barons of politics.” The plan – which Mr Salmond said was about rebalancing the relationship between out-of-town shopping centres and small, independent town centre retailers – was voted down on Wednesday, by 68 votes to 46.
But the first minister hinted it would be included in the SNP’s manifesto ahead of the Scottish elections in May. “We can’t get it through this parliament, but I think it’d be a fair assumption to say it’s something that we’ll take to the people,” he said. “Like the referendum on independence, we’ll see if there’s popular support for the idea that those with the broadest shoulders bear a little more of the burden when times are tough.” Fiona Moriarty, the director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, which represents the big four supermarkets, last month told a committee of MSPs that small businesses needed larger ones to survive. She added: “It’s not our job as a sector to come up with solutions for budgetary shortfalls.” The proposal was however supported by the Federation of Small Businesses. – BBC