WH Smith has been accused by an ex-cabinet minister of failing to showcase Scottish products in its outlets north of the border.
Richard Lochhead, former Scottish government cabinet secretary for food and rural affairs, has written to the retailer after discovering it does not stock bottled water from Scotland.
Bottled water was the most popular soft drink in the UK this summer, according to the Scottish Grocer magazine, and the British market is now worth £2.1 billion. With sales of 2.8 billion litres, compared with only 20 million litres in 1976, competition between the brands has never been higher.
Mr Lochhead writes: “Both as a consumer and MSP who wishes to support one of our most important sectors, I am getting in touch to ask if WH Smith, as a major high street chain, would be willing to do likewise.
“I believe it is especially important that retailers in high-profile locations, such as our main railway stations, promote Scottish products given that these stores can act as showcases for what Scotland has to offer.”
“I note that at your busy Waverley store in Edinburgh, for instance, that you sell mainly imported products, including even bottled water. I believe that this is a missed opportunity for both our food and drink industry and WH Smith.” Checks at the WH Smith outlet at Glasgow Central, Scotland’s busiest railway station, found English Buxton, French Evian and Volvic and Italian San Pellegrino on sale, but no Scottish water brands such as Highland Spring or Strathmore.
At Waverley and Glasgow Central, M&S Simply Food sells own-brand Scottish water and Boots sells the AG Barr-owned Strathmore water.
Scottish products on sale at WH Smith include Irn Bru, macaroon bars, Edinburgh Rock and shortbread by Gardiners of Lesmahagow.
Mr Lochhead said: “In recent years the Scottish government has been successful in persuading transport hubs and companies such as ScotRail and CalMac to stock local products.
“We need high street chains to get on board, particularly in tourism hotspots. I hope that its bosses will give some thought to how its stores in high-profile locations can do more to get behind Scotland’s food and drink producers.
“I can’t imagine arriving at a French or Italian railway station and not being able to buy local products. This would improve the customers’ experience and help our economy.”
Asked why it does not stock Scottish bottled water, a WH Smith spokesman said: “We’re proud to stock our Scottish stores and cafés with a wide range of Scottish goods, including Scottish milk and pies from Strathmore Foods, as well as books and souvenirs.
“We are particularly supportive of Scottish authors with in-store events, and participate in local school-led or other literacy activities.”
This article first appeared in The Times.