Scotland lost 20 per cent of its food retailers between 1998 and 2004. This was revealed in a parliamentary answer by the enterprise minister Nicol Stephen to a question by Tory North East MSP Nanette Milne.
When a high street butcher closes – thanks, in part, to the impact from a nearby supermarket – another one isn’t founded by a meat enthusiast eager to get into the trade.
Andy Willox, the Federation of Small Businesse Scottish policy convener, told The Scotsman: "These figures only confirm what we had long suspected; that small, independent traders are being forced out of the high street and out of business by difficult trading conditions and the growth in big supermarkets.
"Shops which have thrived in our town and city centres for decades, and that have contributed to the character of our high streets, are now finding themselves squeezed out by larger competitors."
Fiona Moriarty of the Scottish Retail Consortium, which represents companies of all sizes, including supermarkets, told The Scotsman that new planning rules should help independent traders.
Smaller outlets already benefited from a rural rates relief scheme, funded in part from larger firms’ revenues, she said, but added: "We cannot turn the clock back two decades and have only small retail outlets.
"Society has moved on and the way that we shop and how that fits into the way we live has fundamentally changed in the past 20 years. That’s not to say that small and large retailers can’t exist side by side because each serve specific and valuable roles and can tap into the needs of local communities."
The FSB’s Willox said "Independent retailers make a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the character and quality of the high streets. They are also vital to local economies. Politicians have to act to allow independent retailers to fight back before it’s too late, and we lose many of them from our high streets forever."