Islanders’ plea to Tesco over home food deliveries

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Islanders are calling on supermarket giants not to forget them during the lockdown.

Slots for Tesco home delivery orders have been marked ‘unavailable’ for weeks, warned Michael Varley who lives at Keils on Jura.

Residents on Mull, Iona and Colonsay are also said to be in the same boat – unable to get a regular top-up to their shopping on the islands.

Mr Varley, aged 72, is a devoted regular at Jura’s community shop at Craighouse.

But like many others, he and wife Carol Anne rely on Tesco home deliveries to supplement items not always available on Jura. Their online orders are collected from Tesco each week by Waltons of Oban which then drops them off at their door.

But Mr Varley has found that getting a slot with Tesco any time soon is proving impossible.

He has been up through the night trying to reserve a slot and also got nowhere trying to contact Tesco directly to raise the alarm.

The bus driver for Garelochhead Coaches received his final Tesco order last Thursday and does not know when the next will come.

Michael Varley of Jura

He told The Oban Times: ‘There are no slots available for this week, the week after and the week after that. I understand they had an initial rush because of what’s happened but things are starting to straighten out now.’

He said the solution could be the company introducing an online ‘postcode’ priority to ensure that those living on remote islands were not left behind, given their isolation and shortage of shopping choice.

Mr Varley praised Jura community shop manager Chris Lamb and his staff for keeping the shop going, along with Waltons of Oban for its deliveries.

‘The manager and staff at the store have been excellent,’ said Mr Varley, ‘and so have Waltons.’

Michael Lamb of Jura Community Shop

Donald Cameron, the Highlands and Islands MSP, has written to supermarket chiefs and also called on other shoppers living nearer to stores to ‘show restraint’.

He said: ‘We should remember that for some people this is a lifeline service as they find it very challenging to physically shop in person.’

‘Please consider whether you really do require a delivery to your home and, if you do, please make sure you use the service sparingly.’

Tesco has said it has received ‘unprecedented demand’ for home deliveries which had caused ‘some disruption’.

‘We are doing everything we can to expand our home delivery and click-and-collect service which enable us to serve the island communities,’ said a spokesman.

‘Across the UK we now have around 780,000 delivery slots a week – up from 660,000 two weeks ago, with plans to increase this by another 100,000 in the coming weeks.

‘In the last 10 days, more than 35,000 new colleagues have joined Tesco, including at our Oban store. These include pickers and drivers.’

The spokesman added: ‘To help encourage those who can shop in our stores because they are healthy and able, we have launched a campaign of ‘think before you click’. This, too, should free up space for online customers.’

Tesco said it is working with the Scottish Government on how it might help vulnerable people who do not have a support network.

Tesco said there are regular updates on the action it is taking at www.tescoplc.com/covid-19/