In January 1979, an intolerable situation existed in Blantyre. An agreement had been reached by Hamilton District Council with ASDA to provide a new store and work had even started on clearing the site. However, there was ONE major obstacle. The Co-op.
Disgruntled at losing out to another supermarket, the Co-op had formally issued objections to the planned development of Blantyre stating they were never given the opportunity to build their own “mega store”. It was causing lengthy delays, the continuation of Glasgow Road being an ‘eyesore’ and people had enough.
Blantyre Community Council sprang into action that month and decided to collect signatures (as pictured outside the Co-op). Over one weekend, they toured shops, clubs, pubs and churches for their petition. There was no shortage of people willing to sign with huge support for the new supermarket. 2,343 people were stopped and asked their preferences, and ALL but 17 of them preferred ASDA and were looking forward to it!
With overwhelming support for ASDA, the people of Blantyre had spoken. The petition was officially taken by Blantyre Community Council and handed over to the management of the Co-Op, with a clear message. “Retract your objections, pull out and let ASDA get on with it!”
Mrs Barbara Paterson, Secretary of Blantyre Community Council said at the time, “We had a great response. People were going out of their way to sign. Blantyre was always full of Co-op supporters, as the Co have pointed out, but people can change in modern times. People in Blantyre have had enough of the Co-op.”
Another Council member Charles Neill added, “Is it any surprise. They [the Co] have recently moved out of SEVEN premises in Blantyre, done nothing to upkeep the way the buildings look, created no new shops and only raised prices. This has added to the decline of Blantyre. We think they’re doing this deliberately, hoping ASDA with so much capital tied up, will just eventually pull out. Blantyre can see this clearly for what it is and people have turned on the ageing Co-op.”
However, the Co-op were having none of it. Mr R Gilchrist, their General Manager defended the Co’s position stating, “Nonsense. The petition has been one lot of bias. The Co-op has existed in Blantyre for a hundred years and served people well, providing employment and fair prices. The Co-op is willing to develop Blantyre and always has been. We’ve been made a villain here by desire for change and the preference of a few councillors.”
As most of us know, the Co-op DID have to concede and eventually pulled their obstructions with a huge extraction from the Blantyre area following. As for ASDA, well, as they say….. the rest is history!
From the book, “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2018
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