Supermarkets have been urged to prioritise deliveries to rural communities during the coronavirus pandemic due to limited supply of food and essential items.
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, has written to a number of major chains to ask them to create more home delivery slots for those utilising online shopping.
Her efforts come after many constituents, some of which are elderly or fall into the “vulnerable” category, have been unable to secure a delivery spot for any period over the next three weeks.
Ms Forbes said: “Obviously, lots of vulnerable constituents are now dependent on home delivery for their shopping anywhere, but with the increased number doing so it means that delivery slots are disappearing very quickly.
“People are understandably panicking and contacting me because they don’t know where else to turn to for essential supplies.”
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance praised community initiatives that have been set up to provide support to all in the locality.
“I am immensely thankful for the number of big-hearted volunteer groups who have come to the rescue, by offering practical help by way of delivery the shopping themselves,” she said.
“But not everyone has such assistance available on their doorstep, so against that backdrop, I have written to the major supermarket chains to see if they can increase the number of home delivery slots for those doing online shopping in rural communities.”
Both Asda and Tesco deliver from their Inverness bases to communities across the Highlands.
Dave Lewis, Tesco’s chief executive, pleaded with shoppers who are able to visit stores to do so – safely and in line with government guidelines – in order to free up delivery slots.
He said: “We’re doing everything we can to increase the number of slots available and to support vulnerable people.
“Through a series of measures, including more drivers, pickers and vans, we’ll expand the number of slots available each week – but this still isn’t enough to meet the demand.”
He confirmed 200 new vans, alongside 2,500 drivers and 5,000 members of staff, have been added to the Tesco workforce to meet the increasing demand on its services.
Mr Lewis added that home delivery and click and collect capacity has increased to 780,000 slots, up from 660,000 slots a fortnight ago, with plans for an additional 100,000 more in the coming weeks.
An Asda spokesman said a dedicated team has been established, with its members working to support “as many extremely vulnerable people as we can”.
He added: “We’re doing all we can – and would continue to urge customers who are able to visit shops to think of how they can support others in their community and if they can shop for them – allowing us to maximise our online capacity for those who need it most.”