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      Uist and Benbecula News

      Barra & Vatersay News

Isles MP Angus MacNeil has been encouraged by senior Co-op leadership’s apparent desire to improve the product range and prices at their outlets in Uist and Barra.

Following a tour of the four Co-op stores in the Southern Isles by Co-op management from Manchester, the Isles MP said: “It is positive that the Co-op is taking action to listen to their customers and engage with the communities they serve and intend to change product ranges.

“This will hopefully continue and bring about positive changes in island stores and allow everyone access to budget and healthier options.”

The visit follows the Tagsa Uibhist report ‘Our Right to Food’, which found a staggering 28% island premium and revealed major difficulties in accessing basic shopping essentials, including budget and Co-op own-brand products.

Since then, Angus MacNeil has been working with senior Co-op management to address the issues. He added: “It is to the credit of Tagsa Uibhist for pushing for improvements in all the Co-ops in all of Scotland’s islands. Certainly, Co-op shoppers from the Butt to Barra may have cause to be grateful to Tagsa Uibhist.”

Alex Mackenzie, Local Food Development Manager at Tagsa Uibhist, thanked the independent General Election hopeful for setting up the initial contact with the Co-op.

“It was a game changer in raising the profile of our research with key contacts at the Co-op and helping our community researchers to move forward on our campaign for a better island service,” said Alex.

“We are delighted that the Co-op are so engaged in improving their island service. All our community consultation meetings were extremely productive, and the Co-op team, some of whom travelled significant distances, were open to replanning their stores to give better access to basic food items.”

Topping the shopping wish list were the Co-op’s own brand and value range products, followed by more frozen vegetables and fruit. Local Co-op shoppers also highlighted catering for food intolerances, stocking local produce and healthier food options, trolleys for families, and even seating for the elderly.

Commented Alex: “All our feedback was welcomed by the team, and it was widely recognised that a distinct island approach was needed to address the challenges within the food supply chains. What is really exciting is that this is just the start of many conversations with the Co-op, and by working together, we will hopefully see significant changes within our island stores that will benefit everyone in the community.”