An update from Orkney MSP Liam McArthur regarding late newspaper deliveries to Orkney:
During a discussion in April this year with the Chair of the Scottish Newspaper Society’s Distribution Committee and Business Development Manager for News Scotland, Scott McCulloch, I agreed that it would be helpful if Mr McCulloch were to come to Orkney to meet with local retailers and others with a view to identifying ways of improving the service provided to customers. I am pleased to say that Mr McCulloch was finally able to travel to Orkney last week (Friday 29 September) and took part in a number of meetings.
In the morning, Mr McCulloch held initial discussions with Menzies Distribution and Northwards before joining me and a number of local retailers for a meeting in my constituency office. At the outset, Mr McCulloch confirmed that, due to the high costs, it was very unlikely that members of the Distribution Committee would reconsider the decision to transport newspapers to Orkney by road/ferry rather than by air. In essence, this was a restatement of the position that Mr McCulloch and the Committee have consistently held in their dealings with me over recent years.
That said, the afternoon meeting was useful and allowed the local retailers present to highlight the problems they and others have been experiencing with regard to the inconsistent and increasingly later deliveries of newspapers around the county. It was pointed out that the lack of reliability and trend towards later and later arrivals was having an impact on footfall into these small shops and potentially their viability. Moreover, the point was made that local retailers were left having to deal with customers, who were understandably and justifiable angry and frustrated.
It was clear during these discussions that the meetings in the morning with Northwards and Menzies, whose representatives were also present, had been productive. Mr McCulloch identified a number of measures he felt could be put in place to improve the reliability and timing of newspaper deliveries across Orkney. As well as looking at an earlier departure time from the Inverness depot, he spelt out changes in shipment to Orkney as well as arrangements for sorting and dispersal locally, which Northwards confirmed they were happy to look at implementing.
Mr McCulloch confirmed that he would need to have further discussions with Committee colleagues as well as those in Menzies, Northwards and indeed JBT Distribution, who have the contract from bringing the papers up from Inverness. He was confident that this could be achieved over the coming 3-4 weeks and agreed to get back in touch next month to update me.
In the meantime, the retailers present at the meeting also agreed to monitor the situation and feedback any issues as and when they arise. Similarly, I will maintain a close interest and ensure any feedback I receive is passed on to Mr McCulloch, ahead of further discussions next month.