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By Hugh Boag
Deliveries of supplies to the Co-op stores on Arran will now be operated from the mainland, ending a tradition stretching back more than 30 years.
In a major change the contract of Arran Haulage to bring the goods from the Co-op’s main warehouse in Newhouse, North Lanarkshire to the island every day was not renewed from January 1.
It is a major blow for the Arran company which has carried out the work, with its predecessors Arran Transport and Bannatyne’s, for more than 30 years.
The contract loss is the result of the Co-op taking deliveries to its three Arran stores in-house using its own lorries and drivers.
One concern is that drivers on the mainland delivering goods to Arran may be reluctant to cross if the weather means they may not get back. However, the Co-op insist drivers are provided with overnight accommodation as standard practice. Arran Haulage also says it would be willing to assist, if required.
Arran Haulage first learned of the proposal more than a year ago and the contract was due to finish in May.
However, as a result of the pandemic, it was agreed with the Co-op to extend it to the end of the year. As a result some of the Arran Haulage drivers stayed on the mainland to service supplies to the island.
Owner Struan Armitage told the Banner: ‘It is disappointing but we have been planning for the finish of the contract for a while. We have picked up enough work locally to cushion the blow, but the biggest concern for us, and a lot of other companies, at the moment is getting through this latest lockdown.’
He said although the contract supported two full-time drivers it had been ‘very time consuming’ operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with deliveries to the two Brodick Co-ops six days a week in the winter months and it was a seven-day operation in the summer months.
‘The ending of the contract has given us the time to look at other opportunities and we are looking at exciting things happening in the months ahead,’ he added.
Arran is not alone with the Co-op taking deliveries in-house when other sub-contracted delivery contracts finish, mainly on the Scottish islands, with the unions pressing for this change.
A Co-op spokeswoman said: ‘As a community retailer, we are committed to serving our unique network of island stores in the most efficient manner to ensure customers have access to high quality groceries and essentials. From January 1 2021 deliveries to all three stores on Arran will be made by Co-op’s own team of drivers, who are based out of our Newhouse distribution centre in Motherwell.’
Brodick Co-op manager Liz McLean said: ‘I have always been delighted with the Arran Haulage drivers but this is a business decision which has been taken at national level.’