An MSP has questioned whether Marks & Spencer's business practices contributed to the crisis at Pinneys seafood processor at Annan where 577 people are set to lose their jobs.
Joan McAlpine MSP says Marks and Spencer insisted the Annan factory produce food exclusively for them, leaving it especially vulnerable when production costs rose.
Insiders have told Ms McAlpine that M&S expected Pinneys operator Young's Seafood to absorb too much of the 25% increase in the cost of salmon, which has risen sharply because of a global shortage.
The MSP was told that Youngs tried to negotiate new production methods with Marks - for example saving on waste by throwing away less salmon deemed to have tiny cosmetic flaws.
However the retailer allegedly refused to compromise and refused to pass any more cost on to shoppers.
Young's announced last week it had abandoned its M&S contracts for deli and prepared meals, produced at Pinneys, stating these were no longer financially viable. This was despite a £600,000 investment in the plant by Young's to meet Marks and Spencer requirements.
Ms McAlpine says the threat to jobs makes a mockery of Marks and Spencer's well publicised charter of social responsibility - known as "Plan A" - which it says it puts people and communities first.
Speaking today, the MSP said: "We are all aware of the unfair price demands some supermarkets put on farmers and other food suppliers - but would expect better of Marks and Spencer. But from what I have been told, M&S is just as guilty. It has too much power over suppliers and in the case of Pinneys, I believe it has abused that power without a second thought for the workers."
She has written to M&S chairman Archie Norman pointing out his company's moral obligation towards the Annan community, and asking him to work with Youngs, the Scottish Government and local council to retain jobs in the town.
The MSP is also asking questions about a third M&S contract at Pinney's - for "natural salmon" ie fillets - which is being moved to Grimsby along with 200 jobs. She has asked if the move comes in response to Marks and Spencer's stated intention to "restructure" and simplify its supply chain. She suggests that customers expect Scottish salmon to be wholly produced in Scotland.
In her letter to Mr Norman, the MSP says:
"Marks & Spencer for many years insisted that the factory produce food exclusively for them, leaving Pinneys workers completely exposed and vulnerable should your business go elsewhere. This is not the action of a socially responsible company.
"Young's have publicly stated that they could not make the M&S deli and pre-prepared meals contracts at Pinneys financially viable. What measures did you take to help them retain these contracts? Did you think at all about the consequence of the loss of these contracts for a town which is so dependent on these jobs?
Ms McAlpine then quotes Plan A, Marks and Spencers heavily promoted corporate responsibility charter which states: "We believe that every life is special and deserves to be spent well. At M&S, what really matters, is that everything we do has a positive impact on our collective wellbeing, communities and the planet."
The M&S supplier managament strategy also states: "We’re committed to paying a fair price to suppliers, supporting local communities and making sure everyone working in our supply chains enjoys good working conditions."
The MSP tells Mr Norman: "I would suggest that if, as you say, "every life is special" Marks & Spencer should rethink its approach and consider the lives in Annan affected by your company policies. I urge you to consider the "collective wellbeing" of a community that has devoted itself for many years to producing the high quality food M&S customers expect. Those customers will, I am sure, be unimpressed with how M&S has treated Annan."