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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s

Trade and Communications

Wholesale Trade

By Michael Moss

During the depressed period of the inter-war years the wholesale trades experienced many changes and challenges. With Scottish farmers, in common with those in the rest of the United Kingdom infuriated by the failure of the government to honour its pledges of support made during the war, there was widespread criticism of cheap imported produce. There were accusations that imported bacon was being sold as Ayrshire bacon and that much imported food was of poor quality. Glasgow provision merchants enthusiastically supported measures to improve quality and to promote Empire produce, while not going as far as Earl Jellicoe's suggestion that anyone who ate food produced elsewhere should be shot. The government formally adopted a policy of Imperial preference (for goods produced within the British Empire) in the early 1930s which led to shortages in supply in the city as local suppliers were unable to make up the gap left in the market for bacon and dairy produce. The price of ham and bacon in Glasgow rose by over fifty per cent.

With the introduction of prohibition in America and high import duties in many other countries, the wine and spirit trade was in crisis. The largest whisky blenders, such as Buchanans and Bulloch & Lade in Glasgow, either amalgamated or were taken over by Distillers Co. Some disappeared altogether. Those wholesalers who supplied manufacturers profited from their ability to negotiate the cheapest supplies of raw materials usually from foreign suppliers at the expense of local producers. Some iron and steel stockholders were buying more foreign steel than the total produced by the Scottish industry. On the declaration of war in 1939, this business came to an abrupt end.

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