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When co-operation becomes captivity

Posted on April 01, 2014 by

As alert Wings reader may recall, I work for a charity in the Borders. Our volunteer who does the Monday-morning food run up the Nith valley is away in Asia and Australia for a month, so my week now starts with a ride up the A76. The countryside is drop-dead gorgeous, particularly in the early morning when the newly risen sun paints the peaks of the hills all kind of glowing colours.


But the beaten up towns of the valley are like refugees. Only a few decades ago towns like Sanquhar and Kirkconnel had a genuine reason to exist. They mined coal. They helped keep everyone’s lights on. Then everything changed as Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill played out their poker game which eventually consigned places like Sanquhar and Kirkconnel to the scrap heap of history.

Back in the autumn we’d just established a new food parcel collection point at Action for Children. Ever since John has taken 15 food parcels up the A76 every week come wind, rain or shine.

Some basic, permafrost-cold statistics? Why not?

Number of emergency food parcels per year. 52 x 15 = 780

Population of the village – 2074

Enough said. If we gave out the same proportion of food parcels across the whole of Dumfries and Galloway we would be delivering 56,000 parcels in the next 12 months. In fact we’ll only be able to manage about 7000.

So we’re left with an easy conclusion: Kirkconnel is a poverty hotspot. There are two over-riding reasons for this. Number one, the UK government, once upon a time, shut the coal mine and put nothing in its place. Number two, the UK government is now in the process of shutting down the benefit system.

Let’s assume that you live and breathe in Kirkconnel and right now you lack gainful employment. You are in fact on the dole or the “buroo” as it tends to be called in these parts. This means you get £60 a week to live on from the caring state.

So long as you head down the A76 to Dumfries twice a month to sign on the dotted line (and make sure you don’t arrive more than a second late for your appointment), you can look to receiving your buroo money for the foreseeable future.

Housing is no great problem. There are plenty of empty houses in Kirkconnel. However they’re not like all of those empty houses in Kensington. The houses of Kirkconnel tend not to sit in the investment portfolios of Russian gangsters. They’re empty because nobody wants to live in them.

Heating and lighting your house is a problem. The wind lances through the valley in the cold months of the long Scottish winter. The surrounding countryside would be ideal for filming a movie of Macbeth. The hard ridged moors that stare down on the village are pretty ideal for planning dark deeds.

But I digress. It’s a cold place. It’ll take half of your buroo money to keep your house anything approaching warm, especially if you’ve reached an age where the doctor tells you to swallow an aspirin every morning to avoid having a coronary.

So you’re left with £30 a week to clothe and feed yourself, and life gets particularly hard for anyone unlucky enough to find themselves stranded in a post-industrial town. Out of sight and out of mind, this is where we can see capitalism at it most savage.

When I say such things, people immediately call me a Marxist. The fact is that I’ve never read so much as a page of ‘Das Kapital’ and I have no political affiliations whatsoever. As far as I’m concerned it’s no more than a cold, hard fact.

Look at it this way:

Where on planet Earth is the urban area where people are most desperate for food? Probably in those besieged suburbs of Damascus where the Syrian Army seems hell-bent on starving to death people who don’t much like the Assad family. And where on planet Earth is the place where you’ll pay the highest price for a pound of rice? The smart money would be on those very same besieged suburbs of Damascus where the Syrian Army seems hell-bent on etc.

These two facts are forever locked together. The more desperate people are for a particular product, the more that particular product will cost. It is the religion of the market. Supply and demand. And there’s nothing that capitalism loves more than a controlled market. A monopoly. Because if there’s only one supplier, and people absolutely need what he is selling, then he can more or less charge what he likes.


If there’s more than one supplier, things are somewhat different. These suppliers have to complete with each other and they will strive to be able to sell their goods and services at the cheapest price whilst still turning a profit. So if you live in a place where there are lots of suppliers fighting each other tooth and nail, then you’re a lucky punter. But if you live in the place where there’s only one seller, then you’re going to get well and truly ripped off.

(This is why drug dealers are so fond of shooting each other given half a chance. Those boys really know the value of a monopoly.)

Way back in 1844 this particular iron-clad rule of capitalism got a bunch of people very wound up indeed. They were the good folk of Rochdale, a town in the next valley but one from where I cut my Lancastrian teeth (Blackburn). These were cotton-mill workers who were grafting sixteen hours a day and they were still more or less starving to death. Not a good look.

What really got their goat was the fact that their local shop was charging three times the price for a stale loaf of bread than the bakers of Manchester were charging for something fresh out of the oven. Why? Simple. A good old fashioned monopoly was in place. They were expected to work all the hours sent by their God and then spend every penny in the local store whilst continuing to doff their caps. Their average lifespan was 37.

But they didn’t doff their caps. Instead they pushed a wheelbarrow to Manchester and back and started up their own shop. It was a 20-mile wheelbarrow commute that changed the game. They co-operated. They became a Co-operative. They became THE Co-operative.


In theory, the mothers in those shell-scarred suburbs of Damascus could do the same. In theory they could set out on a wheelbarrow convoy and clear the shelves of rice in a supermarket in one of the Assad parts of town. And the price of rice would fall by hundreds of percentage points. The only problem with that idea is that Assad’s soldiers would mow them down with Putin’s machine guns.

Thankfully the disgruntled storekeeper in Rochdale all those years ago wasn’t able to whistle up a company of dragoons to chop the uppity cotton workers into bite-sized pieces and the rest became history.

The Co-op was born. Cue uplifting music and a cosy montage of images showing how much better everything is now compared to those dark days when the mills and mines were truly satanic.

So our man in Kirkconnel is a lucky man indeed. Why? Because the one and only food shop in the village is a Co-operative and there’s no way that the Co-operative movement would ever abuse a monopoly to rip people blind. That would be against everything the Co-op stands for. It would be against the very spirit of those gallant men and women of Lancashire who pushed their wheelbarrows ten miles there and ten miles back again. It would be against 170 years of history and progress.

But things change with time. Once it would have been hard to imagine a Labour Prime Minister hooking up with a far-right American president to invade every country they could find. But that all changed, and sadly it seems like the Co-op has changed too.

Yesterday I did a bit of research. I parked up and did some shopping. The Co-op in Kirkconnel has a nice electric door and inside music from the in-house Co-op radio station for a cosy, family sort of ambience. The shop was bright and clean and the bloke behind the counter couldn’t have been more friendly.

I bought 17 items, enough to put together a four-day food parcel. In each case, I chose the very cheapest option available. But when I got the final total I was gobsmacked.


Those are the cold, hard facts. This is the price you pay for living just 26 miles away from competition, even in a peaceful democratic country that isn’t being torn apart by bloody civil war. This is what it looks like when capitalism achieves a monopoly.

It’s exactly how things looked 170 years ago in Rochdale, when Britain was industrial. When those ten miles that separated Rochdale from Manchester made all the difference. Well, we’re post-industrial now and things look pretty well the same. It’s 26 miles down the valley from Kirkconnel to Dumfries. Too far to push a wheelbarrow.

And the Co-op really should be ashamed of itself. But then, like its political partner Labour south of the border, its market has nowhere else to go and – doubtless with the best of intentions – it’s taken advantage of their captivity just like the hardest-hearted capitalist would. If only something better was coming over the hills.

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    154 to “When co-operation becomes captivity”

    1. Jim T says:

      Did you mean Kelloholm or Kirkconnel in your list?

    2. Duncan King says:

      “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” – Hélder Câmara

      Those prices are absolutely shocking. Two quid for a box of cornflakes, and a pound fifty for a loaf of bread? I don’t pay a pound fifty for a fresh-baked artisan sourdough.

    3. heraldnomore says:

      Staggering stuff Mark, and if you don’t mind I’ll blog it on, adding one or two readers to Stu’s couple of hundred thousand….

    4. Jim T says:

      OK – just looked on streetmap – adjacent villages.

      hangs head in shame

    5. Thomas William Dunlop says:

      Powerful stuff. It is sad to see another example how is poor in the UK is ripped off, and told it is thei own fault

    6. Lee Rogers says:

      Disgraceful behaviour from the Co’.

      Excellent piece Mark, thank-you; I’ll be contacting them.

    7. Arbroath 1320 says:

      As you are buying the food to make up the food parcels Mark can I suggest that you consider visiting Aldi’s in Dumfries and doing a bulk buy there. I’m sure you’d manage to get even better deals there and their range is very good as well, says her who shop’s there once a fortnight. 😛

      I’d mention Lidl as well but I’ve never seen the need to go there as we are very happy with Aldi’s.

      Even if you do not live in Dumfries, like us, I’m sure a once a week trip intro Aldi’s would more than be made up for by the savings on the foodstuffs that you can buy there.

      Sorry Stu for doing an Aldi’s advert here 😛

    8. Lee Rogers says:

      And welcome to WoS, BTW 🙂

    9. Gail says:

      I live in a small Ayrshire village which reflects this reality, no one ever addresses it. The food prices are exorbitant, there is very little access to fresh fruit and vegetables. You have to weigh up paying the bus fare into town, which for an adult is around £6 and could represent food for days. People can’t get moved from here, no one wants to swap their council or housing association house to live here, so essentially those on low incomes are trapped. Thank you for laying out so clearly what is so very wrong.

    10. CameronB says:

      An excellent article spoiled by its analysis of the Syrian crisis, IMO. FWIW, I most strongly object to the assumption it conveys and I would ask if it might be re-worked. Please. 🙂

    11. Caroline Corfield says:

      I’m going to admit that I no longer need to worry how much the basics cost so have no real idea how much they should cost, but simply the price difference is enough to suggest something is very wrong here.

      Corner shops are notoriously expensive because very few people do a full weekly shop at them, but I intent to do a comparison using your list and my local Spar, my walkable distance independent co-op and the big chain large supermarket I need a car to get to. I will let you know how they all compare with each other and these prices. I think it might be very educational if we all did it and gave a general location for our ‘basket’ versus retailer. Thank you for a great article.

    12. GP Walrus says:

      Why don’t the folks in Kirkconnel and Kelloholm form a coop of their own? They could stock up on their trips to Dumfries.

    13. drygrangebull says:

      I only have one point, and that is “Probably in those besieged suburbs of Damascus where the Syrian Army seems hell-bent on starving to death people who don’t much like the Assad family”. I am disabled so take more drugs than it takes to drop a horse, so I read A LOT… And all you have to do is look west and the big picture,geo-political chess and we are but a pawn

    14. jon esquierdo says:

      Spot on Mark I live just up the road in Ayrshire and have family in the upper nith valley.Kello and Kirkconnel are a forgotten village decimated with failed Westminster policies

    15. patronsaintofcats says:

      Not sure about now but I canvassed that area for SNP for 2011 election and we were not at all welcome. The vast majority of people still clung to Labour and believed that only Labour would ‘take care of them’. It is just as bleak as Mark reports, and heartbreaking to see the state of those villages just up the road from where I live nearer to Dumfries. Further on is no better – New Cumnock is incredibly sad and bleak. All are labour strongholds, all are former mining communities. It’s shocking the Co-op is taking advantage in this way. I do hope the people in these places see the light at some point and realise that with indy we have a chance to break this cycle.

    16. Murray McCallum says:

      An eye-opening account Mark. The +300% price variation is hard for an observer to take in – what must it be like for locals!

      I remember playing football against Sanquhar Academy in 1978/79. The whole region was a great, but by no means affluent, place to grow up. By the mid 1980s my local town had +30% unemployment.

      I used to play football every evening with a crowd of kids (about 16). A maximum of 1 or 2 remain there. The armed forces was a popular destination and thereafter immigration.

    17. call me dave says:

      That’s a depressing state of affairs you have described Mark. 🙁

      Jaw dropping prices too. Googled Kelloholm and had a look at the coop too. Seems a nice wee place to live.

      Volunteers like yourself working in the community are priceless, well done for your work, good luck to you and thanks for posting.

    18. fairiefromtheearth says:

      Jesus is this a mouthpiece for the main stream media i suppose the referendum held in crimea is a sham as well. Let me point out Assad was an eye doctor in London they had to BEG him to return to syria and if we get independance and London decide to finance TERROR actions in this Country and we defend ourselfs dose that make us the bogey man,i watched the film about what you wrote about the CO-OP and it was very good and my advice to you Mark is dont belive EVERYTHING the main stream media tells you or have you been in these parts of Damascus?

    19. Albert Herring says:

      The silver lining for the folk in Kirkconnel is that the Co-op is passing on the extra to their saviours in the Labour party.

    20. fairiefromtheearth says:

      Rev i am dissipointed that you would put this attach of TWO leaders of Nations on your site,how many GREAT BRITISH bombs were used in illegal wars over the last 20 years i should say 25years and add my crimes into it as well,how much in arms sales has GREAT BRITAIN made in those years.Rev you should tell Mark to listen to the speaches Gaddafi gave to the UN or the Arab League telling the world WHO is behind all these WARS time to WAKE MARK UP REV.

    21. Mark Frankland says:

      I feel I should respond to one or two of the comments about what I wrote about Syria. I claim no great geopolitical wisdom. My feelings about the Assads are much more personal. When researching my novel ‘Red Zone’ a few years ago I was helped enormously by a Palestinian asylum seeker called Ghazi Hussein. He was a schoolteacher and a poet and the Assad goons collected him in the dead of the night 26 times and took him away for imprisonment and torture. they never gave him a trial. What they did to him plumbed the lower depths of depravity. They even put him on the rack. Torture was an impossible thing for Ghazi as he never had a single thing to tell them: he was simply a Palestinian school teacher who wrote beautiful poetry. In the end he made it out and thankfully he now enjoys the security of a British passport. The only way he was able to convert his asylum status into citizenship was to take off his shirt to reveal the handiwork of the Assads. I know nothing of the on the ground realities of what is happening in Syria but I will NEVER forgive that evil family for what they did to my friend Ghazi

    22. joe kane says:

      I don’t know how much substance there is to this but just thought Id’ pass it on.

      Apparently the independent Scottish Coop was destroyed in 1974, by the British Labour Party, and its management and decision-making capacity moved south in response to the dangers of growing Scottish nationalism and the SNP.

      And on a closely related matter to the Co-op, the news media isn’t the only Scottish institution that’s foreign-owned and controlled. Once upon a time Scotland had many independent Scottish trade unions, now there is only one, the teaching union the EIS. I did hear there was still a small independent trade union associating with the clothing and tailoring trade but don’t know if that’s true or not.

      More info here –

    23. Drunken Hobo says:

      Of course, we should stay in the Union for the sake of the oil industry. When it runs out, Aberdeen will have a massive hole to fill, and Westminster have already proven how well they took care of the old coal mining towns.

      Say “No” for the sake of Aberdeen.

    24. Grouse Beater says:

      The essay is desperately bleak.

      But it should double our resolve.

      You look at all corners of Scotland and know, without a shadow of doubt, the blighted rural areas, the lonely harbours and under-used docks, the grossly underdeveloped, degrading cityscapes, we will never be a priority for sustained inward investment and planned growth while under Westminster’s authority.


      The crippled political structure of the United Kingdom is incapable of generating equitable concern for its subjects when it is so firmly in the grasp of the City of London and an ingrained colonial mentality.

      Under the Union the best Scotland can expect is recreated in the image of a region of England – the “Scotlandshire” of satirist derision – possibly part of some sort of federal construction, a scheme concocted to ensure we cannot rise as a nation state again.

    25. fairiefromtheearth says:

      and its £71 a week broo monies not £60 GOD this bit of jurnalism is about as good as my spelin or something bitter together cobbled together.

    26. AnneDon says:

      I live in Edinburgh, where there is competition. I don’t go to the Co-op, I shop in Aldi. I couldn’t afford the Co-op, they’re more expensive than almost every other supermarket.

      If I was paying for for quality, for organic, ethical produce, then I would go there when I am working and could afford it.

      But it’s just the same stuff as everywhere else. But more expensive.

      The real heirs of those Rochdale pioneers are working in community gardens and food co-operatives.

    27. AnneDon says:

      @GP Walrus

      No-one is running a car on £71pw. 🙁

    28. Suzanne K says:

      Good article but doesn’t explain why the Coop in Biggar, an affluent area charges the same extortionate prices. Or maybe it does, when Aldi was refused planning there due to intense lobbying by our local Tory councillor and shop owner…
      Capitalism is alive and well in South Lanarkshire. 🙁

    29. Grouse Beater says:

      @ Suzanne

      Good point – Biggar is a captive area. How far are folk prepared to drive to save a few pounds on groceries only to discover petrol to get them there wiped out any savings?

    30. fairiefromtheearth says:

      I wonder why Mark dident use Prince Charles being made to dance for the Saudi royals before they would sign the 12billion arms deal for BAE Eurojets Typhoon whatever the fekk their called now to a REPRESSIVE regime a DICTATORSHIP he did have a point to make but fekked it up.The best bit for me was he done a little research LOL ye mate you did just not enough.

    31. jingly jangly says:

      Completely agree re the Co-op, as well as ripping us off for basic essentials, another trick they get up to is to make offers and when you settle at the till you pay the full price. Its happened to me and others countless times, last time I was so annoyed I went home got my camera took a photo of the “special” offer and the till roll and reported them to trading standards.

      One example was that they had an offer pay for 4 kitchen rolls and get 12. To reinforce the fact of this great offer kitchen rolls were placed in a basket in the entrance to the store, an elderly couple in front of me were charged for 12, when they complained there were told they had picked the wrong kitchen rolls, they said we got them all from the basket at the entrance, the staff were not apologetic and told them to go and get the right sort of rolls!!!!

      Another time I bought some “Sell by date” lamb chops, when the teller was putting them into a bag she was overwhelmed by the stench of rotting flesh. She was very nearly sick, as my money had already been deposited in the till, I had to wait for a supervisor to reimburse me. she eventually arrived , nearly boaked when she smelt them and angrily accused me of trying to con them by bringing back stuff that had gone off. I wont repeat what I said….

      Here on Arran they have a complete monopoly, in Brodick where I live we have the only two grocery shops in the village, both are Co-op’s, they are about half a mile apart and the price for stuff varies between them.

      The first thing I will do when I win the Euro Lottery after a big contribution to WOS and YES is buy a local clothing store/café which is up for sale and give it rent free to Aldi’s

    32. Andy-B says:

      Good piece Mark it does well to highlight, the poverty and despair outside the big cities , and as for being colder in the countryside that’s very true, I visited Wanlockhead a few years back and it was very cold in the winter. Wanlockhead I think is the highest village in the UK and has the highest pub in the UK.

      As for Sanquhar I’m pretty sure it has the oldest working post office in the world,(1712) though with privatisation of the Royal Mail, and the price of a stamp on the up, who knows how much longer it will stay open.

    33. Archie [not Erchie] says:

      @ Drunken Hobo – Welcome to the real world. I am sure someone will give you the offer of the blue or red pill. [Matrix]

      I guess you live in Aberdeen so perhaps on a Tuesday night about 7.30pm take a turn up Huntly Street and see the queue of ordinary folk, mothers with bairns & elderly waiting for a poly bag with some meagre supplies.

      Or perhaps you should look at the Aberdeen City Council website and go to the homeless section where it directs needy folk to organisations and churches that help with food and other supplies.

      Or perhaps you should think about why NGOs such as Instant Neighbour and Somebody Cares are so busy helping out those in need.

      This is just the tip of the iceberg with so many more organisations that are overwhelmed with Aberdeen folk needing help.

      And you with your sanctimonious SAY NO FOR THE SAKE OF ABERDEEN is so blatantly out of touch with reality, I wonder if you are just a troll hoping for a wet dream moment. How can you justify SAY NO, when the evidence of austerity is all around you?

    34. Jamie Arriere says:

      Thanks Mark, for an eye-opening account of the reality of poverty and failures of capitalism in southern Scotland, which hopefully we can start to tackle in earnest after independence.

      Fairie, for pity’s sake, I think you’ve missed the whole point of the article by a long long way.

    35. Arbroath 1320 says:

      Sounds like a winner to me jingly. 😛

    36. CameronB says:

      As we are down a bit, just thought I’d post this thought from the fagend of the PFBN #2 thread. Remember, the RTPI is predominantly FABIAN in membership and outlook.

      The RTPI is Scotland’s JAILOR.

    37. msean says:

      Great piece Mark,and of course true of many other towns in post industrial Scotland.These towns would have a better future in an independent Scotland.

      They may be small,but they won’t be as forgotten when they are closer to power in Edinburgh than they are now in the case of London.

    38. Hugh Wallace says:

      I have always thought the Co-Op was outrageously expensive and had also noted how even in cities the most expensive places to buy food (outside of boutique retailers perhaps) were the small supermarkets operated by Co-Op, Spar and the like which are all located in the poorer areas whereas those of us well-enough off to own a car can drive to Asda, Aldi, Lidl or Tesco and get much better deals.

      If anyone is interested in contacting the Co-Op and complaining about this issue their contact details can be found here:

    39. SquareHaggis says:

      Another problem with places like the CO-OP is the lack of.a healthy, balanced diet. Certainly in my neck of the woods it’s all crisps and pizzas washed down with an endless supply of aspartame laced drinks.
      The fruit and veg has virtually no shelf life and is so expensive nobody can afford it. Most of it ends up in the bin outside.
      There are two of CO-OP ies in my local village, one in the leafy side and one on the cooncil side, guess which one is the dearer?
      Also, there’s the Costcutter which is even worse and in the next village along it’s Costcutter “franchise” charges what it likes, prices are so incomparable you’d think you were moving from planet to planet.

    40. CameronB says:

      I’m with you but away to the rumpus room to let some steam off. The point has been made. 😉

      Mind and no break anything. 🙂

    41. Gavin Greig says:

      @joe kane,

      The union my Dad was in, the SSTA, still seems to be around: SSTA web site. Also a teaching union, of course – maybe the separate education system is why they and the EIS are both still around.

    42. SquareHaggis says:

      P.S. The Yes Campaign is virtually non-existent in Aberdeenshire, people keep asking when they’ll be coming to speak to us. We feel out of touch and uninformed.

      Plenty of village halls here awaiting to be popualted by an increasing number of anxious residents with many questions, c’mon Yes Aberdeenshire, where are you?

      Please don’t take us for granted.

    43. Excellent article.

      Not sure why some people are arguing about Syria; it’s irrelevant to the point being made.

      Nor is the EIS the only independent Scottish trade union. The SSTA (Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association has over 10,000 members…

    44. Ann says:

      I used to shop regularly in the CO-OP in my village, but not now. It is way to expensive.

      There are sometimes better deals in the wee corner shop.

      I now use Aldi, Farmfoods and of course the wee corner shop.

      I have even noticed that the likes of Tesco and ASDA that they are not as cheap as the used to be.

      Prices just seem to be going up and up and up whilst wages remain stagnant.

    45. Matt says:

      Co-ops in small towns and villages are ridiculously overpriced, but for me this is the worst ever example of it is in Brodick.

      You can get a bottle of Arran Ale for £1.99 in Glasgow, but in the co-op in Brodick, less than two miles from where it is brewed, it’ll cost you £2.50. How is that even possible? They could literally deliver the stuff in a wheelbarrow and save themselves the need to burn so much as a millilitre of petrol.

      And the worst part? In that co-op, they have a wide range of the biggest brands of beer in the fridge, in the first place you look when you want to buy a beer. Where do they stock the Arran Ale, the freshly-brewed local produce? On a shelf in the corner, so you’d need to really be looking for it. Madness.

    46. Clootie says:

      Loved the article.

      For me it worked on many levels. How great men made a difference and then their legacy organisation lost it’s way – The Co-Op / The Labour Party etc

      The core, for me, was to keep your feet on the ground and remember how the big politics actually impacts on those in greatest need.

      Well done in doing the work you do. I just cannot understand why it needs to be done in one of the wealthiest countries in the World.

      @Duncan King
      Great quote from Helder Camara.

    47. Drunken Hobo says:

      Archie [not Erchie] – I realise sarcasm/irony doesn’t always come across well in text, but I thought the line “how well they [Westminster] took care of the old coal mining towns” would have given it away!

      Being serious, it’s often treated as if the oil will only run out if we achieve independence, and it’ll last forever within the Union. Of course that’s nonsense, and the people of Aberdeen & other areas dependent on oil should ask what the plan is for their city post-oil. Will it be allowed go the same way as all the old coal mining villages?

    48. Andy-B says:

      O/T secret Westminster government document leaked,showing the new Union Jack Flag or rather the new rest of the UK flag when Scotland becomes independent.

    49. JLT says:


      I think your being a bit hard on Mark here. Sure …the figures aren’t going to ‘on the nose’, but whether it’s £60 or £71, that is still peanuts when you will have to heat what I can only guess, will be a piss-poor establishment with no double glazing and possibly other things wrong with the place (rising damp, dry rot, cracks in the structure).

      One thing that Mark did not mention (I might have missed it, and if I did, I apologise now, Mark), but Mark said …so long as you head down the A76 to Dumfries twice a month to sign on the dotted line (and make sure you don’t arrive more than a second late for your appointment), you can look to receiving your buroo money for the foreseeable future.
      The one thing I picked up from that, was that there are travel costs. The person who is getting £71 (or £60 …doesn’t matter) will also be paying a bus fare to get there and back. I’ll bet it costs more than a fiver to do a full around return journey! Basically, the travel is a cost in which you are having to paying to sign on. Some might say that normal folk do that everyday going to work. I’ll bet it feels absolutely brutal when you can see a 12th of your money disappear before your eyes as you look at the 7 (or 6) £10 notes in your hand. Just imagine it! 7 x £10 notes, and then trying to pay for food and heating while praying that no other utility bill is going to hit the carpet floor. Imagine if you have to buy clothes …or shoes …because the stuff you have is wearing away. That’s more money!

      To be honest, just thinking about all of the above makes me thankful for what I have. It puts me to shame when I complain about driving about a city all day, or being told to do something that at times, can be bloody awful.

      It puts things into perspective.

      I think Mark has done some brilliant investigating here (irrespective of what the costs are in dole money, and comparing shop prices). I for one, would not wish this on anybody, let alone someone who is on the dole, stuck in the middle of nowhere, self-esteem shattered, and wondering how many years they have to suffer like this.

      Personally, I thought it was a highly, emotional piece of journalism. Good stuff, Mark. Well done.

    50. Archie [not Erchie] says:

      @ SquareHaggis – All you have to do is go onto the Yes Aberdeenshire FaceBook page and ask. Its not that hard. Or are you waiting for the YES circus to arrive unannounced with trumpets and banners.

      As for non-existent? Oh I think you protest too much without checking.

      Get in touch with them instead of……..oh forget it. Just hide in your comfort bubble. I am not making friends tonight, I am ticked off.

    51. fairiefromtheearth says:

      No i never missed the intent of the artical ive lived in POVERTY my whole life wither working or not i just dont think slagging off leaders of other countries in a piece about POVERTY in our country is on the mark for Mark.

    52. CameronB says:

      IMO, it is perhaps a bit, well, white. ;(
      At least they’ve got a plan though. 🙂

    53. Dave McEwan Hill says:

      Excellent article except for the seriously uninformed bits about Syria. The day the SCWS allowed itself to become a division of the UK Co-op was a disaster waiting to happen.

      I was told over three years ago by a person well informed on the Middle East that US and the UK were supporting and providing funding for arms for terrorists including Al Qaeda to destablise Syria. Syria of course supports Iran which US wants to attack.
      Putin has frustrated that plan. In fact he is giving US the runaround. Vlad the derailer
      I wonder what the UK government would do if it was attacked, for instance, by rebels in Manchester. Let them get on with it – or hit them with everything the army has, perhaps?

    54. proudscot says:

      When you consider the Co-operative Political Party, as an offshoot of Labour, sponsor such unattractive personalities as Johann Lamont and Ian Davidson as MSP and MP respectively, it sort of explains why their commercial arm rip off the ordinary people who tend to vote Labour.

      It also puts a different light on Davidson’s infamous remark about “bayoneting the wounded” after a NO vote on September 18th. Based on the post Culloden atrocities and ethnic cleansing carried out by Butcher Cumberland’s troops, their victims were just a often loyalist Highlanders aa well as Jacobites. Pro-union supporters beware, aftr a NO vote the Westminster reprisals will hit SCOTLAND, not just those of us who voted YES.

    55. proudscot says:

      Apologies for the typos in my above post. Anger and a couple of malt whiskies tend to make my fingers all thumbs!

    56. john allan says:

      I still believe there is a distinct possibility of a uk wide general election. depending on what happens in May.

    57. fairiefromtheearth says:

      OK people i was in the Army for 5years which made me mentally ill so i get brew monies oh and im one of the lucky ones who gets an extra £30 a week disabilaty monies and i will tell you the truth in the last 5years they have kicked me off the sick 3 times and in that 3times i have been forced to starve because they kept on stopping my monies for months at a time but never have i blamed other goverments for what MY goverment was doing to me,again i will ask as a mentally fekked up person WHO in their right mind would bring in 2 leaders of diffrent countrys into a debate about POVERTY IN THIS COUNTRY? and its Marks debate i just want clarification and for Mark to maybe wake up a bit.

    58. kininvie says:

      The story of the co-op is indeed a sad one, and maybe the saddest is the way its board tried to turn themselves into wheeler-dealer bankers and failed utterly, at the expense of 15,000 pensioners.

      There’s another question, though. What do we do about these declining villages, stuck where there was once an industry? There’s an awful lot of them – too far from anywhere to be turned into communter paradises – without much hope of attracting employers from the bright new industries we’re told Scotland needs, and far off the tourist trail.

      We could follow the clearances route (remember that even the Duke of Sutherland of ill-repute considered that by moving people to settlements such as Bettyhill,
      he was doing his bit to prevent rural poverty). Or we could pour money into upgrading – but that does not solve the employment or location problems. Maybe there’s another solution, but I’ve yet to hear one.

      There’s a further problem – In our semi-rural areas, guess where the remaining social housing where no one has wanted to exercise the right to buy is? In just such places. And all too often they are where candidates for emergency housing – the dispossesed, the broken family, the young single mum – end up. The very last places in which to try to stick their lives back together.

      Anyone got any ideas as to what to do?

    59. CameronB says:

      The one thing I picked up from that, was that there are travel costs. The person who is getting £71 (or £60 …doesn’t matter) will also be paying a bus fare to get there and back.

      Why do you think informal slum shantytowns are mostly slap bang in the middle of ‘third-world’ cities, usually on the least desirable and valuable sites? These slum settlements are vital to the function of the city as they provide cheap labour and services. This is how capitalism works folks.

    60. fairiefromtheearth says:

      JLT you should start buying the sun they like readers like you.

    61. Arbroath 1320 says:

      john allan says:

      I still believe there is a distinct possibility of a uk wide general election. depending on what happens in May.

      I think you’ll find john that Westminster is now stuck int fixed 5 year term arena.

    62. john allan says:

      Remember this, the Scottish government only of sets the bedroom tax. It does not have the power to change the fact that its UK law and by not paying it you are breaking UK law.

    63. john allan says:

      Westminster is still subject to a vote of No confidence if either lib dems are tories leave the pact

    64. fairiefromtheearth says:

      and of course Bin Laden planed the 9/11 attachs from caves in afghanistan oh and Saddam had chemical weapons funny thing was he did at one time they were supplied by GREAT BRITAIN and the shit i done in the army was the first gulf war when we destroyed all the chemical weapons he had,TONY BLAIR LIED they fekking knew he had nothing FOLLOW THE MONIES.

    65. john allan says:

      Remember libs are courting labour and tories as bedfellows and in the past tories and ukip have done deals to secure seats.

    66. CameronB says:

      There’s another question, though. What do we do about these declining villages, stuck where there was once an industry?

      I’m sure the folk with big brains will be able to figure that out, once they have the correct tools and finance. It may require radical measure, perhaps not. But its just all hot air and blethers until we do something about it.

      Perhaps voting YES for a government that is accountable and responsive?

    67. Archie [not Erchie] says:

      @ Drunken Hobo – Agree with your observation of sarcasm/irony by text. It doesn’t work so well.

      My apologies for my reply to you, I am just in a feisty mood especially when it comes to hungry families in this area.

      I have some questions for you – Would you say that in the early 1970’s pre-oil boom that Aberdeen was a prosperous and generally happy place?

      Are you of the opinion that the dreaded black stuff is running out next week, month, year? I agree with you that questions should be asked and planning should be addressed but I go back to my first question.

      Ok another tack which Mark hinted at in his article:

      Did the coal run out? Did it all happen at the same time all over the length and breadth of Scotland. Were there no questions asked or planning addressed then, in the event of coal running out?

      Finally, you will be glad to hear, I would be quite happy to treat the oil as icing on Scotlands Clootie Dumpling as long as it takes. When it goes at least we have the dumpling to enjoy. 🙂

    68. Andy-B says:

      A good piece by Zoe Hennessy in the Morning Star regarding poverty in Scotland today.

    69. john allan says:

      If Mays vote is bad for either lib or torys decide that their best chance of staying in power is to jump ship and force that No confidence vote.

    70. Arbroath 1320 says:

      I agree john that any Westminster government from now on could face a vote of no confidence but I’m not so sure that losing a vote of no confidence would have the same effect as government’s losing similar votes in the past.

      It is my understanding, and of course I could be wrong here ;P , that as the terms are now fixed for 5 years then the government of the day will run for 5 years. In order for this to change I would imagine, slap on wrist on chance I’m wrong 🙂 , there would need to be regular votes of no confidence and a change to the election rules to allow an election outside the fixed 5 year term.

    71. Andy-B says:

      The pounds in trouble, do we really want a currency union, after reading this you may not.

    72. Andy-B says:

      Spot the April Fool’s story, who’d have thought the Westminster mouthpiece, the Telegraph, could have a sense of humour? not you? me neither.

    73. JLT says:

      Fairiefromtheearth, mate. No one is blaming you. You are one of the very reasons why this country needs to be independent. You got a shit deal and you’re still paying the price.

      I can see your point. Yes, there are two small paragraphs that didn’t need to be added. I suppose Mark is just highlighting those two minor facts; that thanks to the wonderful ‘New World Order’ that the likes of the ‘English speaking world’ has created, that it likes it to be that way. I agree, there is no need for these 2 paragraphs to be there, but we should not dismiss what is certainly a post which is emotionally disturbing.

      What Mark has written here though is an indictment of the social loneliness in some of the poorest villages and small towns, whom are so far from the heart of major towns and cities that they are literally forgotten, come bordering on ghost towns.

      This is one of the harder problems that need to be solved should we become independent on the 19th of September. How do we rebuild these places, especially when some might be pretty remote? What can be done …or are we looking to eventually just close them down, and move people to a more centralised location where opportunities will be available. This is hard choice, but it might come to that. If a very small community is no longer a viable place to live in because there will be no factories, shopping centres, business parks, then what can one do? A small town could see business growth if the potential is there.
      But for some of the more distantly remote, and very, very small communities, where a future for them will be extremely difficult then I do fear the worst. History has time and again shown places being abandoned because it was not possible to live there any longer. This maybe the case over the next 50 to 100 years for a few places that were built for one purpose; to support the local mining business. With those businesses gone …so eventually, it may happen to the village over a slightly longer passage of time…

    74. CameronB says:

      How do we rebuild these places, especially when some might be pretty remote?

      By providing those who will rebuild a stronger and more just Scotland, the correct tools?

      Just saying

      Vote YES

    75. JLT says:

      fairiefromtheearth says:

      JLT you should start buying the sun they like readers like you

      Mate, I’m a bit baffled with that one. I can’t see anywhere within my post that I am endorsing in keeping places in a state of perpetual poverty. I’m not condemning the poorest of the poor.
      Personally, I believe no one should live on the breadline, living in constant worry and fear about the future. It’s one of the reasons I want this country independent; so we can tackle the blight of poverty in this nation.

    76. Dal Riata says:

      The town that I’m from in Mid-Argyll, Lochgilphead, has a large Co-op store. It has, since its opening, caused the closure of nearly all the town’s ‘food’ shops that used to line the mainstreet. You could say that that’s the price of capitalism and the free market, and you’d probably be right. Also, you could say that this is another sign of the demise of the local shop in towns and cities caused by multinationals and the like, and again you would probably be right.

      Even so, the result is that what is being supplied by the Co-op in Lochgilphead (and its environs) is expensive, of poor or sub-standard quality, very limited in choice and lacking in fresh and healthy products. It does, though, sadly, have plentiful supplies of the ‘ready-meal’ variety.

      As a product in and of itself, the Co-op in Mid-Argyll is rubbish, yet they have a captive population so can get away with poor quality at high prices.

      As a result, more and more people are either going up to Oban on a difficult road by car or bus to stock up from the likes of Aldi, Lidel and Tesco which have big stores there – a ludicrous situation when, even with the cost of petrol being so high in Argyll, it can be more cost advantageous to do so.

      Becoming even more popular to save on costs is going online and having those stores deliver to the door… and that is with the vans coming from Oban to Lochgilphead, a distance of 40 miles – ridiculous!

      The “Co-operative”…? Naah, I don’t think so! Self-serving [sic] and out for themselves, nothing ‘co-operative’ about them. I believe they are Better Together-ists(?). Not a surprise. If only the local people of Lochgilphead had the choice of a boycott…

    77. George Osborne says:

      What a brilliant piece of writing. Evocative, gentle and angry. I’ve lived and worked in East and South Ayrshire for quarter of a century in a job that has allowed me to see at very close quarters the conditions that ex mining communities are expected to tolerate. Nobody seems to recognise the truly insidious self-perpetuating poverty that is the lot of destroyed rural (usually mining) communities. Bad though urban poverty is I suspect rural poverty is worse, firstly because it’s massively under recognised and secondly for the reasons so eloquently brought to life above. A social worker from New Cumnock once told me that he simply didn’t understand why drug use was rife amongst teenagers ” because they’ve got all these beautiful fields and woods to play in.. Wouldn’t catch me doing it”. Case rests. Not least because it’s the bleakest place you’ve ever seen south of Torridon and that the nearest employment is the meat factory in Drongan. Thank you Mark.

    78. Dan Watt says:

      Excellent piece and utterly shocking to find that the co-op (that ought to have a national pricing strategy) could be so bad to people like that by charging such disproportionate prices.

      I would however like to mirror other readers and say that your assessment of the problems in Syria are, not to be cruel, but they are complete nonsense. Assad is NOT terrorising his own people, far from it. He IS fighting extremists and, hopefully, he will succeed.

      I am aware that the British MSM may very well report happenings in Syria differently to this, but we here know very well with how much salt to take what they have to say, especially where a pro-US/neo-liberal attitude is concerned.

      The real problems in Syria are the Saudi funded insurgents trying to turn Syria into an Islamic Emirate. No I’m not saying that Assad is little Mr golden balls, but I would rather his regime and regimes like them were prevalent across the middle east, than those we see in Iran/Saudi etc etc.

      Sorry for the off topic rant, but reading that misrepresentation got to me.

    79. john allan says:

      My understanding is the rules of No confidence did not change and if a lib dems or tories see it in their best interest to jump ship the other parties could force a vote of no confidence, IF this vote is won the the governing party has 2 options either to govern as a minority government or to force a early general election. If as i suspect the tories private polling says Scotland will vote yes then the tories may decide to go early, say Oct or nov time.
      MR darling may be mr miliband saying you support us post YES and currency union, assets and liabilities and a fast track to the EU will be your reward.

    80. SquareHaggis says:

      @Erchie []

      Sadly I don’t use/trust facebook.
      I did go into Aberdeen for the festival of politics last Sunday with the sole purpose of speaking with the Yes Aberdeen co-ordinator but at the end of the debate he disappeared.


    81. john allan says:

      You dont have to trust facebook there is no way to hide truths on the internet if you wish to find it.

    82. kininvie says:


      I’m sure the folk with big brains will be able to figure that out, once they have the correct tools and finance. It may require radical measure, perhaps not. But its just all hot air and blethers until we do something about it.

      Perhaps voting YES for a government that is accountable and responsive?

      Leaving it to the ‘folk with big brains’ has got us to where we are now. It’s time we changed. Plenty of brains on this site – yours included 🙂

    83. fairiefromtheearth says:

      JLT well the person at the head of lothian and borders busses at the time the trams were being discussed said for the monies they were talking about he could give everybody free bus travel FOREVER they laughed at him and went ahead with their liebour vanity project, 160,000 people on council waiting lists 100,000s more not on them who want them, as i have said before we could easily build 20 new towns in Scotland and the monies easy we do as the banks are doing we make it out of thin air its as easy as this 100000000000000000000000000. NO more to big to fail to big to jail.

    84. JGedd says:

      I live in the same airt as Mark and know the places he describes which are forgotten places for most of the population here. Many people in this part of the world are comfortably off, some extremely so and you will often hear contempt expressed for those caught in the poverty trap Mark so eloquently describes.

      Some however, not so comfortably off, are perhaps only one pay cheque away from the same dire situation and yet voice the same Daily Mail attitudes as those who inhabit the substantial farm houses or large sandstone villas of this area. It’s heart-breaking to listen to and makes me despair. There isn’t a lot of solidarity here except amongst the golf club and Round Table set. There isn’t a lot of sympathy either for independence – I don’t think the two circumstances are unrelated.

      As Mark has described, Dumfries and Galloway has beautiful and varied scenery even up on the moors around Kirkconnel which has a bleak beauty of its own. But throughout the region, the infrastructure is poor with inadequate connections to the central belt or even to other parts of the region and expensive public transport.

      There is so much which could be done for regions like this, even connecting them up with reasonably priced transport would be a great step forward and yet I’m tired of hearing the same dismissive assertion that Scotland is too poor, too wee, etc.

      Sorry, it is a very scenic place to live but the heartless attitudes I often hear expressed get me down. I wear my Yes badge but don’t have many cheering encounters about the referendum, mostly chilling looks.

      So, if possible I’m going to go out and get involved with what Mark and other charitable people do in this area. I’m tired of feeling down-hearted.

    85. JLT says:


      I agree with you there, matey. No one should be above the law …no matter who they are. Jail them, as you say. Might just make some of the big uber-bosses think twice before they get up to anymore dodgy financial shenanigans.

    86. schrodingers cat says:

      o/t apologies rev
      the only election before sept is the ero ones
      1. what are the chances of the lib dems getting wiped out, uk wide? (i think this is a real possibilty)
      2. what would that do to the coalition?
      3. could this precipitate a ge?
      4. is there an advantage for bt in this action if the polls continue to narrow?

    87. Andy Dickson says:

      Hi this article brought back many memories for me I grew up in kelloholm kirkconnel. I still remember my mums coop dividen number from there. It did use to be at the heart of the community , providing everything you needed from telly to cooker..just about everything. Changed days now it is a completely different organisation now, no longer community based as it use to be.

    88. SquareHaggis says:

      @john allen,

      True. For want of a better word than “trust” – last time I used FB it totally screwed my laptop. Then there was all the ads and friends I didn’t know, just felt like one big spam site. Also it’s far to complicated for the untechsavvies like me.

    89. CameronB says:

      The town that I’m from in Mid-Argyll, Lochgilphead, has a large Co-op store. It has, since its opening, caused the closure of nearly all the town’s ‘food’ shops that used to line the mainstreet. You could say that that’s the price of capitalism and the free market, and you’d probably be right.

      It is scarey how few independent companies there are in the world. It is like Russian dolls, with only seven(?) companies controlling something like 70% of global economic activity.

      The ‘free market’ is being homogenized by the same interests that control the education system .

    90. wee_monsieur says:

      Disgraceful behaviour from the Co’.

      Excellent piece Mark, thank-you; I’ll be contacting them.

      Me too.

    91. CameronB says:

      I’m sure the folk with big brains will be able to figure that out, once they have the correct tools and finance. It may require radical measure, perhaps not. But its just all hot air and blethers until we do something about it.

      Perhaps voting YES for a government that is accountable and responsive?

      Leaving it to the ‘folk with big brains’ has got us to where we are now. It’s time we changed. Plenty of brains on this site – yours included

      On what level did they understand their actions and was the sytem they were working within capable of providing a positive outcome?

    92. Fairliered says:

      Mark, I wonder whether it may be worth contacting Coalfield Community Transport They are based in East Ayrshire, but Kirkconnel, Kelloholm and Sanquhar are all geographically part of the Ayrshire Coalfield. Maybe they would hire a bus for a weekly run to Dumfries Aldi. Perhaps also, if the good folks of Upper Nithsdale ask Aldi management when they are going to open a store in their area, word may reach the people who plan store openings?

    93. CameronB says:

      TVMBTW 🙂

    94. Dave McEwan Hill says:

      I would like to see any big supermarket obliged to open satellite stores in the villages or provide franchises to the owners of village stores by supplying them at a discount which allows them to trasde at a competitive price before they are given planning permission to operate and to be obliged to charge the same prices across the nation. I believe Morrison’s does this.

      It is in everybody’s interest to keep village stores running and to stop people having to do long drives to get their shopping in.

    95. Peter Mirtitsch says:

      I have to say that I have tried to avoid shopping in the Coop for a long time, as for a “cheap” high street supermarket, I have found it to be the dearest. Even something like the two litre, own brand, saver marque of cola or lemonade, found everywhere else for 17 or 18 pence for two litres was around 25-30 pence here. Everything else in store I found to be similarly priced, and that was just the staples, let alone any fancy stuff.

    96. Dave McEwan Hill says:

      There is a critical weight under which a community starts to die and becomes a dormitory for the rich and old or a collection of holiday homes.

      There has to be enough of a population to justify a primary school, a post office/general store and probably a hostelry. A progrssive council would be looking for a way to encourage social housing being built in small communities and engineering the services that it needs like transport and so on. Once a community reaches a certain size an economy of tradesmen, shops and service providers kicks in and everything starts to tick over.

      Sadly our planners tend to find it easier to feed the centre and allow the periphery to wither. If they feed the periphery the centre prospers as well.

    97. Excellent article Mark.

    98. Dramfineday says:

      Hi Kininvie

      anent your sign off comment about ideas. Oddly enough, floating through this thread starting with Mark’s initial article and the work of the food banks, is a concept, let’s call it “co-operative help” for the sake of a better name. It ranges from me supplying stuff to Mark (his equivalent where I live) and Mark’s equivalent delivering it. I give some to help and he does stuff to help and our people get some relief.

      Following your request here are some ideas – not costed, nor known if they would work, fly etc., just some thinking around your remark. I was thinking seed corn and community engagement here.

      Suppose SG could empower the local village community councils and give them the power to control the local environment within (say 100 yds) of the village boundaries. Allow same councils to borrow money to build a new house every year or refurbish old stock to meet village needs with the prospect of selling some of the stock as holiday homes or letting them to needy locals (repay loans).

      Give them the right to relax certain planning restrictions within the village zone and make officials of the “county council” part of the tool set to get the community council ideas into play (and not be the distant “oh ye cannae dae that” brigade).

      Additionally the community councils could be given rights over common land, woods, water and empowered to purchase a zone for community food production (fresh foods in season). Then you could give them a volunteer pot. That is to say, anyone from the village currently on the Broo could receive an additional payment per day (that would not attract a reduction in benefits) for volunteering to work on community projects – and could be anything from A to Z.

      You could also put a bit of money into “experimental” energy production – reopen some of the mines for local heating and power generation (small scale production) whilst trying out the concept of carbon capture / clean coal at a local level.

      Working with other local villages and interested parties perhaps it’s possible to develop tourist trail stuff, bridle trails, bikes, fishing, shooting, slow food etc.,

      Any national or international stuff that impacted on the town or village would attract a modest annual charge to go into the community council coffers for improvements.

      So, starter for 10 mate probably all tosh and some of them predicated by the need to have an independent Scotland, but you did ask.

      Meantime the real question is, can some of our country men, women and children hang on while cold and hunger once again stalk our communities?

      Thank you Mark for this article and doing your bit. I’ll do mine too by contributing and by campaigning for YES but I have to say I’m red faced with shame and anger that food banks exist in 2014. Talk about wasted votes.

      So over to you guys – any more ideas?

    99. Morag says:

      I’m quite conflicted about our local Co-op. I know they have good animal welfare standards and Tesco (next-nearest at 9 miles away) don’t. But they’re sharks too.

      I feel it’s essential for the village to have its own shop. Use it or lose it. I mean, 9 miles? But I wish it wasn’t the Co-op.

    100. john allan says:


    101. Jim T says:

      @Kininvie 7.34pm

      I wondered about those communities every time I’ve driven through on the way south. What on earth is there to keep people there?

      Some employment on the Buccleugh estates I suppose, a few “service” jobs and maybe now some wind farm maintenance employment. Not a huge amount of work available for residents with manual skills.

      The hope that was dangled in front of rural communities for “electronic crofts” has been painfully slow arriving and you only have to look at the openreach postcode checker to see that the exchanges in Kirkconnel and Sanquhar are “Under Evaluation”. That probably means a couple of years yet before they are upgraded to fibre to the cabinet (FttC).

      If there was any serious intent to upgrade those exchanges to support an IT based employment area they would have been funded by local government a few years ago.

      I suspect that there are opportunities, for example, to develop IT based businesses and maybe industries but, it’s a chicken and egg situation. Until there are sufficient trained and skilled people available it’s unlikely to grow the jobs market sufficiently to stem the loss of locals and benefit the community in terms of income generation.

      In the Western Isles the tweed industry was dying on its feet (two puns for the price of one there 🙂 ) until one of the crofters managed to get a large contract with Nike to produce the quality tweed needed for inserts in trainers. The local “industrial” tweed mill was bought by an outsider and I’m not sure how well that is doing, but I suspect it isn’t as healthy and profitable as the one crofter who did his work on a pedal powered loom and then had to sub-contract work to his neighbouring crofters. Proper Harris Tweed is only created by pedal looms and not electric ones.

      Those opportunities are few and far between and I have no idea how to identify them for such communities, but do we trap them in old, traditional industries or try to grow knowledge based ones instead? I know where the added value is likely to lie and that is knowledge. There will be traditional skills that attract a premium, but how many can they employ?

    102. Vambomarbeleye says:

      The co is also a contributes to Labour Party funds. So one you have no choice but to shop there and help the Labour Party.
      Adds are now delivering to Kyle of lochslxh

    103. Geoff Huijer says:

      I got my dole yesterday (just after midnight Sunday to be precise).

      £142 for two weeks.

      Now spent thus:

      Gas: £50
      Electricity: £30
      2 x Friends: £20 (borrowed for gas & electric previous week when both ran out).
      Shopping at Tesco: 12 tins dog food, packet dog biscuits, 2 x penne pasta (29p each), 8 tins tuna (on offer £6), chicken stock cubes (20p?) – circa £12.50
      Council Tax: £11
      Mobile phone: £15
      CO-OP: Toilet Roll (on offer £3)

      Spent: £141.50

      Note: No phone bill paid, I have no insurance (Pet, house or otherwise), no TV licence, need £3.70 for bus to sign on (not included: I walk the 10 mile return journey unless horrific weather), no milk (coffee without nowadays).

      I am sometimes given food by friends, otherwise the above lasts me two weeks. No sob story; facts.

      And MPs get how much grocery shopping allowance and meal allowance?

    104. theycan'tbeserious says:

      Aldi should run a huge arctic sized mobile store and take their business to rural Scotland…right under the nose of the coop. Or provide a bus service to take customers to/from their stores. A valid reciept for free transport home…no reiept pay or use public transport. Extra business would more than pay for service.

    105. theycan'tbeserious says:

      Thanks Mark for highlighting the damage a monopoly will do to a community…happy to keep it’s customers in poverty. Better together my arse!

    106. Free at 63! says:

      That is total sh*te! The total of your energy bills alone (as for most in your position) is so much higher than those of us who are able to pay by monthly direct debit. I have given, and do give, to food banks because I am in the fortunate position of being able to do so. I remember the poverty of the 70s and 80s and I don’t remember food banks then(but concede there may have been some during the miners strikes)and I am appalled that when you walk into some supermarkets you are confronted with food banks in what is such a rich country.

      That is another reason why we must vote YES.

    107. kininvie says:

      On what level did they understand their actions and was the sytem they were working within capable of providing a positive outcome?

      That’s a non-question. Until you know the outcome you desire, you can’t know whether the system is capable of providing it. So let’s assume our outcome is we want these villages to be viable as communities. Can our system provide that? Not so far. Can any (affordable/sensible) system provide that? I’ve yet to hear an answer.

      TVMBTW That’s beyond me (and Google). BTW I get. TVM???

      Agree. You outline the problem well. But do we shift the folk to some suburb & then bulldoze the villages? If not, what? I’m looking for answers here…

      Here’s one imaginative idea that didn’t make it

    108. CameronB says:

      Suppose SG could empower the local village community councils and give them the power to control the local environment within (say 100 yds) of the village boundaries.

      I don’t think this would be constructive as it would serve to fragment the planning system. The system is not at fault, the process is. It is not possible to achieve positive outcomes when the conditions will not allow such to happen.

      The RTPI is Scotland’s JAILOR!

      Lots of good suggestions there but we need a planning system that beneefits Scottish communities and not UKplc and the British establishment.

    109. Fairliered says:

      Kininvie – its already been done. People from the old miners rows were moved to places like Kelloholm and Patna. Its no use moving the people if there are no jobs in the area.

    110. Megsmaw says:

      Thank you Mark.

      I used to live in Kelloholm, the bigger village connected to Kirkconnel, in the 90s.
      At the time both my mum and step-dad where on JSA/Income support.
      The only jobs were in the meat factory or the carpet or Aluminium factories in Sanquhar. The carpet factory closed and aluminium factory was also closed, with the jobs being relocated in NE England, quite a lot of families followed their jobs down to Newcastle.
      The Brown Bros. meat factory is probably now one of the biggest employers there now.

      To the people asking “why can’t they…” to be honest, the bus service was a joke back then and probably hasn’t changed much except the price. A car becomes a necessity when you live in these places.
      If you took the punt to get the bus to Cumnock to get Farmfoods and the cheap supermarkets you had to be quick as the last bus home was ridiculously early. My parents were left stranded one day and had to walk back with all the shopping, thankfully they hiked a lift at some point.
      If you’re going the other way, Dumfries is an hour’s journey on a bus with no toilet. Back then the Aldi/Lidl was closer to the hospital than the bus station, so it was off the list. There used to be a Kwik save in the precinct, so they’d go there instead. Sometimes my mum and aunt would club together and get the train in, which took you near the huge Food Giant shop, to load up but that was rare. We mostly had to shop at the co-op. The fresh fruit/veg section was terrible and the prices a joke. The other local shops were not much better on price either.

      There was many a time we had nothing but plain spaghetti with a stock cube melted in for dinner or some other ingenious concoction made from whatever was in the cupboard.

      As much as the job/poverty situation stinks, the people there are tight-knit and care about their community. The school I went to, although small and at times under equipped, was brilliant. It gave me the best education I could possibly have and boasted more outdoor space than any I’ve seen in West Lothian schools.

      Hopefully with independence we can bring these communities in from the cold and make living there easier and happier.

    111. CameronB says:

      Thanks Very Much By The Way 🙂

    112. Wullie B says:

      Move to the Isle of Skye to see a co operative controlling monopoly ,between Portree where there are two (one express size) to Inverness you next have Broadford with a Co op then Kyle with a Coop then Fort Augustus with a Scot mid (co op with another name then you have the renowned Tesco town of Inverness,which has Morrisons,Two tescoi superstores,Co op and Asda ,so to get a different shopping I have to travel 240 miles round journey to Inverness or go to Fort William passing two more Co ops if via Mallaig,One at Mallaig and one at Corpach before getting the option of Morrisons and Tescos,so unless I go two hundred miles I have no option but to donate money to the Labour Party through its Co operative branch while being overcharged for foodstuffs

    113. CameronB says:

      I hope I managed to answer your question, before you asked it? (see above @ 10:54pm) 🙂

      And the explanation for TVMBTW

    114. Jim Kennedy Cairo says:

      Labour are asking us to think of the poorer people of Wales and the north of England. We have a duty to look after our own first. Also tell that Huzma guy the same before he plans to give out foreign aid. Eradicate poverty in Scotland first.

    115. kininvie says:


      Makes a lot of sense, but for one thing – personal energy. The kind of projects you speak of require people who can deal with all the form-filling, make things happen etc. That’s possible (look at Eigg) but it’s far from a given in places that have been dying for years…

      And I’m sure you know as well as I do the kind of thing that happens when you parachute in outsiders to tell people how to manage their lives…

      (Such as, on a bigger scale, D Cameron, G Osborne 🙂 )

    116. Geoff Huijer says:

      @Free at 63

      I’m afraid it’s not total shite.

      Various energy companies (& engineers on annual maintenance visits) have confirmed that the reason my bills (for a one bedroom flat) are so high is because the Council equipment is so old I lose about 60% of any heating.

      I used to pay DD, but unfortunately regularly did not have the cash in account and would end up with a £10 fine from bank.

      My point is, however, £71 a week is not enough to live on and foodbanks in this day and age (and in our society) are an absolute disgrace.

    117. Jim Kennedy Cairo says:

      Give Aldi and Lidl some encouragement to run vans to these remote communities. Get the population to bulk buy so the van is full. It may take a few runs to get it going. Another thought promote cottage industries. I hope this can plant a seed and maybe somebody can come up with something.

    118. kininvie says:


      I think you had a wee misinterpretation of @Free’s comment. I think he meant your situation was shite, not your figures!

      And it is shite. We can do better than this.

    119. Jim Kennedy Cairo says:

      The people of the islands and remote communities should get subsidised food and fuel. that would be a winner in any political campaign. Treat everybody the same.

    120. Better Together St Kilda says:

      Hey, we might change our minds about independence if you could get a LIDL out here – those co-op sand eels are extortionate!

    121. Doug Daniel says:

      Great article Mark, but you said a thing which I disagree with, and even though you were just making an illustrative point, I’m going to slag the whole article off, as well as your abilities in general.


    122. CameronB says:

      Doug Daniel
      Hope you don’t think I was having a pop at you the other day. Would you have included time?

    123. kininvie says:

      So, building a wee bit on what Dramfineday says…

      Part of the problem is that we’ve all become a bit too dependent on the Cooncil to know what is good for us and to tell us what they can’t do for us because of such and such an Act 1986 section 5(c).

      Central Govts like Cooncils, because they are a nice regulated, level of governance – easily reachable and easily subdued. So things ain’t going to change unless we demand change (see the feebleness of the powers allowed to Community Councils, e.g)

      So, let us suppose that we have an Act passed in an Indy parliament which says that communities can gain power – should they so wish – incrementally.

      So maybe we have a list of powers which if communities agree, they can take on (or give back, if they can no longer sustain them)

      Such as:
      Road repairs
      Housing refurbishment
      Community planning

      etc. etc.

    124. Geoff Huijer says:

      Kinivie @ 11.21


      Doh…I did misunderstand Free at 63.

      I can (obviously) be SO dense at times.

      Aoplogies Free at 63!

    125. CameronB says:

      Incremental-ism is the basic principle of FABIAN-ISM. 🙂

      Seriously though, as I said above, the existing planning system is not as unfit-for-purpose as it might appear. It is just not serving the interests of the Scottish people, it is making sure Britain stays together and the wheels stay on the UKplc cart.

      A Scottish government accountable to Scottish communities is all we need. With a little bit of pruning and tidying. 🙂

    126. Doug Daniel says:

      Cameron – no idea what you’re talking about to be honest! Not been able to read the comments much the past few days due to us being quite busy at work.

    127. CameronB says:

      Doug Daniel
      I replied to your rejection of the likelihood of a single EU state, by asking how many dimensions there are. I was trying to make the point that we are all wrapped up in ourselves and think that reality is ours. Its not. And without wanting to get too depressing, I think it is something like 99% of all species of life that have existed, are now extinct.

      Time. This vote in September is not for us, it is for our children and their children and their children and their children…….

      Or something like that. 🙂

    128. Craig says:

      “I have no political affiliations whatsoever”

      Why then spoil a good article with totally unrelated and unnecessary political points about the Syrian and Russian regimes?

      Stuart, please edit out such nonsense in future articles written by others.

    129. ian mccrae says:

      i dont understand why the coop/is so expensive???,they are a huge company with the same buying power of the big supermarkets!!,they have a store on nearly every corner,and yet they rip the people off!!,with high prices!,if they came into line with normal supermarket prices,,,,,,would they not make more profit?as more people would shop in thier stores!!!STOP RIPPING THE MINCE!,AND HELP THE COMMUNITIES,INSTEAD OF “STEALING”,FROM THEM…I FIND IT DISGUSTING!!,,,SO COME ON COOP/SCOTMID….START TREATING YOUR “LOYAL”CUSTOMERS WITH RESPECT!!!

    130. CameronB says:

      News John Craven probably wouldn’t have wanted you to see. Darn that tinternet thingy.

    131. fairiefromtheearth says:

      CameronB the native Americans say you should take care of the planet for the next seven generations,unfortunatly goverments are only worried about the next buisness quarter.

    132. john king says:

      Goeoff Hujer says
      “Doh…I did misunderstand Free at 63.

      I can (obviously) be SO dense at times.

      Aoplogies Free at 63!”

      To be fair Geoff I took his comments as an attack as well ,so your not the only one, 🙁

    133. john king says:

      Ian McCrea says

      Now Ian if the co-op charged sensible prices how do you think they would be able to give free loans (non returnable) to that nice Labour party?

    134. Nick says:

      I have the same thing where I live on the Western Isles. Another forgotten town, except I live in a part of the world that should be booming with renewable energy. We get the best quality wind in the world save for the top of the cairngorms. The area around us has the best average winds of any inhabited area in the world, but we there is one problem – The MoD. For some reason the MoD have not upgraded their radar in decades and are affected by wind turbines miles and miles away. They plan on upgrading but will not do it until the current FiT has expired! If the turbines are installed after the FiT has gone down to the lower rate then the community makes a considerable amount less and may end up being the death sentence for the project as it may not be feasible at the current purchase and installation prices. This is another case of the Government and MoD doing things for their own purposes and not giving a toss for the local populace.

    135. Desimond says:

      The folk reading this excellent piece about Poverty on our doorstep and market exploitation and then moan about the Syria reference remind me of the pernickity coaches at kids football who say “Yes, you did score 4 goals but you didnt have your shirt tucked in”.

      And yeah I spelt pernickety with two I’s just to annoy you.

    136. setondene says:

      Why do people keep calling English retail chains ‘multinationals’? They’re here to exploit us and their profits head down to England.

    137. Jim T says:

      Just had a look at the Coop 2012 accounts They have no specific mention of labour party support but, they do have an item for “Subscriptions and Donations” of £2M for 2012 and 2011. Further down the accounts they identify £1M against subscriptions so, does that actually mean that they are pushing £1M towards the labour party or is there some other “donation” being made that they haven’t specifically identified?

      I missed the chance to take part in their “have your say” exercise and would have queried that if it was still open to comment. Not exactly good accounting if you can lose £1M from identified expenses.

    138. setondene says:

      BTW I think that Scotmid are still Scottish, as they are the direct descendants of St Cuthbert’s in Edinburgh. But they have some mysterious link to link the Manchester-based Co-op that I can’t unravel despite the fact that they compete with each other in the same locations e.g. Inverness.

    139. Desimond says:

      @Jim T

      Just in case you havent caught it, this might help :

    140. Rosa Alba says:

      If true I am appalled. I knew the Cooperative was having issues but not complete sell-out to capitalism. I never thought that their prices would not be uniform across the country.

      Although – the question does remain: were both lists of products bought in Coops or was one bought in the likes of SupaSave or Lidl or Aldi. Because Ethical Fair Trading and good employment practices come at a cost. As do sourcing local-ish produce. Also the quality of the tinned goods – well a 19p can of tomatoes and a 49p can are not always the same; the former has more liquid content; ditto baked beans (the cheaper brands have more sugar etc).

      And I have to say the local CoOps here in Stonehaven have fresh – fairly local – produce.

      Equally many of us have lost the skills to make healthy food cheaply: a pot of lentil soup or a stew. I understand that food parcels need shelf-stable goods but shelf stable goods tend not to be the healthiest. And we have become accustomed to if not Fast Food then Medium Speed Food, and high fat/high (cheap) protein foods.

      The more I think about it – non-brand food bought in a Farmfoods or Morrisons not the same, necessarily, as different non-brand food brought in a Ethically Trading store.

      But the most ethical is to find a local farmer at the market and buy his veg.

    141. Molly says:

      From the Telegraph Nov 2013
      Labour Party properties ltd(Lppl) a property firm wholly owned by the Labour Party has used its £6.3 million portfolio to secure £3.8 m of cheap finance from the Co-op bank.

      It goes on , The Telegraph has previously revealed how LPPl has paid no tax since 2003, despite collecting millions in revenues after declaring losses. Labour denies doing anything to intentionally lower it’s tax bill.

      If only I could link, but there is quite a bit from Nov 2013 regarding the ‘close ‘ relationship such as, at least 1/3 of the company’s £850,000 annual donation to Labour could be cut. The bank provides campaign funding to 32 MPs who are members of both Labour and Co-op parties.

      Don’t worry, the ‘have your say’ didn’t allow for any kind of comment , it was all like company blurb with no mention of loans, Rev Flowers or changing their voucher scheme.

      When I was wee, I used to go into Perth and there was a whole Street of Co-op shops which I think my Granny probably built judging by her loyalty to the Co-op, changed days indeed!

    142. Ravelin says:

      I’m not going to go out and 100% defend the co-op as their prices are on the high side and I don’t agree with their support of political parties (as I made clear on the recent ‘have your say’ exercise). However I do think they have come in from unduly harsh criticism in these comments.

      The co-ops prices are higher than the likes of Tesco, Asda etc for a reason. Yes they are a large business and must be able to buy in bulk, however their costs must also be much higher. They operate lots of smaller stores, many in small villages (our village has 2 small co-ops). Consequently their distribution costs will be much higher than the large supermarkets, their staff to customer ratios higher, their stock range smaller etc. All of this affects what they can stock and the price they can afford to sell it at. It’s not entirely fair to compare, for instance, Asda value rice pudding with Co-Op stocked Ambrosia Rice Pudding. Maybe the Co-Op shoudl look at stocking lower priced, ‘value’ range foods, but would it sell? The co-op have not had their problems to seek recently but I don’t see anyone showing that the profit from their food stores are sufficiently high to justify claims that “they are ripping us off”.

      What’s the alternative? Realistically the big supermarket chains (or Aldi/Lidl) are not going to be interested in setting up shops in the vast majority of the locations that the co-op operate (and we all know that the big supermarket chains aren’t shy at opening in new locations if there’s a profit to be made). However harsh it is for those that struggle to afford it and can’t/won’t either move nearer to or travel to a larger supermarket, then it’s a fact of life that living in some places is more expensive than others. Then again other expenses associated with living there, such as housing costs, may be cheaper.

      One thing for certain, it isn’t the Co-Ops fault that there has been an increasing need for food banks!

    143. Caroline Corfield says:

      Tesco run Tesco metro shops, I’ve seen pared down small Sainsburys around too, the CoOp might like to say ethical goods cost more, which would be fair ( yet Waitrose manage it), but distribution costs are a weaker argument, NISA and Spar both manage to run economic businesses with small shops and large distribution networks, mind they don’t support MPs directly.

      What I could find so far was that Spar in the form of C J Lang and Son, the Scottish part of the Spar group gave £540 pounds in 1995/96 to the Conservatives. It’s not clear on a cursory search that as an organisation NISA donate anything to any party.

      I took part in the yougov questionnaire done on behalf of the CoOp and I took issue with some of the wording on their questions. They seem determined to find evidence amongst the population to back up a position they were already set on taking, rather than a consultation or investigation.

      So sad, I recall the days of the Clydebank CoOp that stretched well beyond Clydebank, and covered every aspect of working people’s needs, cradle to grave as it were.

      Still not been shopping yet.

    144. Catherine says:

      I was aware that the Co-op had different prices in different shops, as many years ago, where I live, there was only a Co-op, and when Tesco’s moved in, prices all of a sudden went down. Now I don’t particularly like Tesco’s, but I have to say I have never really forgiven the Co-op. I also know that island communities are being penalised in the same way. This along with your article is particularly interesting in light of this page on their website:

      A couple of nuggets:

      At The Co-operative we encourage new ideas to tackle issues that are important to our members – from helping the community to changing the world.

      Equity – we carry out our business in a way that is fair and unbiased.

      Strong letter coming their way…

    145. Molly says:

      ravelin, I agree they haven’t created the need for food banks but on the back of this story, bearing in mind the sums of money we are talking about, the change to the voucher scheme( before Christmas) was along the lines of , spend £30 in one day and get a voucher for £3.

      I’m a bit torn because I find their bank straight forward, their pharmacy service good and their shops handy , plus since moving in , the underage drinking has either disappeared or moved somewhere else but II can’t deny I’m disappointed in the cynical way you need to come back and shop again to get the benefit of the vouchers, while huge loans ‘appear’ unaffected. I thought the CO-OP was better than that, ethical stuff etc.

    146. Ravelin says:

      Tesco Metros etc, as their very name implies, are found in cities and towns and therefore benefit from lower distribution costs. How many of them do you see in rural locations? From personal experience of traveling around rural Scotland the only convenience stores you tend to find outside of a decent sized town are Co-Op and Spar. I seriously doubt that Spar are any cheaper than Co-Op in these locations.

      The Co-Op now is not the Co-Op of 40yrs ago, there’s no doubting that. However in many respects they are still streets ahead of big supermarket chains in their business practices, even if they maybe do need to re-discover some of their old reasons for existing.

    147. Albamac says:

      Mining villages:

      We can honour our dead without living in the graveyard.


      If you’re on benefits, the council will stick you in a ghetto. If you’re single and on benefits they’ll offer you an abandoned midden and tell you to take it or leave it.

      In the private rental sector, no property agent will touch anyone on benefits with a bargepole so you’re left to the tender mercies of dodgy private landlords.


      Get off your arse and fight your way out! You don’t have to lie, cheat or steal and you don’t even need a job to do it.

      How do you go from dire poverty to having the highest available credit score within five years? Tell the truth, control your finances, honour commitments and build a trustworthy reputation.

      A spreadsheet, a plan, some knowledge and determination is all it takes.

      Been there, done that but, strange as it may seem, many are reluctant to take good advice. They’re happy to be unhappy with their lot and misery loves company.


      Dump the Co-op, it’s a sham!

    148. Desimond says:

      @Caroline Corfield

      Regards Waitrose ( they also have Little Waitrose stores now too I see)

      I bought 2 slices of fine Scottish steak in Aldi the other week. My wife has a bar code reading app that tells you calorie info etc. When my wife scanned the Aldi purchased meat, her phone read


      I wonder what the price was in Waitrose compared to Aldi?

    149. Sunface says:

      “P.S. The Yes Campaign is virtually non-existent in Aberdeenshire, people keep asking when they’ll be coming to speak to us. We feel out of touch and uninformed.”

      Have a look at; absolutely heaps of stuff happening including a Ceilidh for Yes on the 26th April in Banchory which would be a fine time to meet the Yes organisers-
      There are some really dedicated Yes promoters across Aberdeenshire working tirelessly and leafletting even the smallest villages. I don’t know whereabouts in Aberdeenshire you are but Yes is very active in the Marr area where I live even though it is a small ‘c’ conservative type area generally. Also- it’s a grass-roots campaign so if you want to organise some speakers at a local hall- go for it!!

    150. Robert Peffers says:

      @Drunken Hobo:
      “Of course, we should stay in the Union for the sake of the oil industry.”

      So, Drunken Hobo, just what is it about,“Scottish Renewables”, being an important long term plank in the Scottish Governments future policies that you don’t understand?

      The skills of Aberdeen based the Oil & Gas industries are very much the same skills needed for the future renewable energy production. Not only that but the Aberdeen based companies that service the North Sea and West of Scotland oil & Gas industries reach out across the whole World.

      Remember, “Renewables”, includes off-shore wind, tidal flow, sea-currents, wave-motion, pumped hydro storage and natural hydro storage generation systems.

      Not to mention the West of Shetland hydrates deposits that dwarf the entire North Sea oil & gas deposits and which the Japanese have already succeeded in extracting natural gas from.

      Believe me Aberdeen’s future prospects far outreach the present North Sea oil & gas deposits by extending their expertise throughout the World and across much more than local oil & gas deposits.

    151. Derick fae Yell says:

      I suspect most of the price difference between the small towns and the bigger ones is just down to turnover, rather than profiteering.

      It depends on the business model. If the Co-op expects each shop to turn a profit on a standalone basis and sets a particular profit margin, then stores with a lower turnover and hence slower stock movement will have higher prices.

    152. MarionHaste says:

      It’s certainly a shocking piece and the Co-op has badly lost its way and betrayed its roots. Rather than individuals tramping to distant towns and using up fuel, couldn’t some sort of co-operative be formed among locals, either to do shopping runs to cheaper stores or order a cash and carry delivery? Better still, could they set up community gardens? Fruit and veg can be grown on verges, spare bits of land, in gardens not used by their owners (‘donated’ land, if you like) and councils are usually happy to help. We are too much in thrall to supermarkets. Rather than find a cheaper supermarket, getting them out of our lives as much as possible is better policy – but I do say that from the luxury of a town (albeit one where everything is at tourist prices).

    153. Peter Colledge says:

      We in Barra had exactly the same problem. The Co-op was the only show in town. So, some of us got together and joined I know they are anathema to the Co, but the shop in Govan was really friendly and puts our stuff onto our local lorry and the food comes in at the same time as Co-op deliveries. We all just go and pick up our totes the next morning. I believe Arran is doing the same thing.

    154. Doug S says:

      This price list is twaddle. I bet you have cheap economy stuff versus branded stuff. I think I’ll have to phone the stores and get their cheapest prices.

      Let me guess, basic jam versus truly irresistible jam etc etc

      The comparison is codswallop without the brands and types of products compared.

      How very biased and unsurprising.

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