Managers at the Co-operative Group have been urged to look again at their emergency planning procedures after claiming that installing a generator at their Rothesay supermarket would not be commercially viable.
Regional manager Joe Kerr and retail operations manager David McDougall attended Bute Community Council’s monthly meeting on Wednesday to answer questions on the company’s operations on the island - and in particular its response to the power cuts in January which left Bute without electricity for the best past of three days.
The company was criticised in the aftermath of the power cuts for not opening its store and for throwing away food at a time when many island residents’ cupboards were empty.
Asked whether the company investigated bringing a generator to the island which would have allowed the store to open during the power cuts, Mr Kerr said: “Generators are available for a store of this type, but the bottom line is that a generator wouldn’t have lasted long enough for a closure of that period.
“It wasn’t commercially viable for us to do that. We asked ourselves if it would have made a huge difference in the case of what happened in Rothesay, and the answer was no.”
Asked by BCC member Mike Blair how much of a social responsibility the Co-operative Group felt to the community in emergency situations, Mr Kerr said: “This is the first time we’ve dealt with something like this at that level.
“If it happens again, and we get a view that it’s going to be unreliable every winter, we will look at the position again.”
That led to an accusation from local Co-op board member and Bute resident Jean Moffat that the company was being “extremely irresponsible” by adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude, while Angus Middleton said there was “no excuse” for not having or not being able to refuel a generator.
BCC member Bill McQueen added: “We are not here to get revenge by being rude to you about what went wrong last time.
“I’m just very grateful that you are prepared to look at the whole situation again. That’s all we can ask for.”