Kirkcaldy won’t give up its Tesco store without a fight.
Twenty-four hours after the shock closure announcement devastated staff and stunned the town, the activity behind the scenes has been stepped up significantly.
A public meeting has been called for Monday evening at 6.00 p.m.in the Town House - and it is open to everyone to attend and have their say.
Petitions have been launched in-store and online to save the supermarket, and on Saturday morning (10.00 a.m.) campaigners will be in Hunter Street and in the High Street urging people to sign up.
It’s a race against time as Tesco plans to quit town in just over eight weeks - April 4 is the proposed closure date - but considerable pressure is being put on the retailer to think again.
Gordon Brown MP today spoke with Dave Lewis, chief executive of Tesco and will write to him with proposals to keep the store open.
He is also speaking to Threadneedle Street, the company which owns The Postings.
Mr Brown will be at the public meeting on Monday which will be led by Councillors David Ross, leader of Fife Council, and Neil Crooks, chairman of Kirkcaldy area committee, - and he has urged locals, including business and community groups, to turn out in number.
‘‘There is a lot of concern in the town over the closure plan, so we want people to come along and have their say,’’ he said. ‘‘We will have campaign teams outside Tesco on Saturday (10.00 a.m.) and down on the High Street handing out leaflets to spread the word about the meeting and get people to sign the petition.’’
Mr Brown said: “The meeting reflects our urgency because Tesco is due to close, and the Post Office with it, in just eight weeks’ time.
“Tesco and the Post Office counter service which is part of it are central to Kirkcaldy’s economy. We do not want to see 189 jobs lost or millions lost to the local economy.
“This morning I have talked in detail to Tesco’s Chief Executive Dave Lewis, and in the past few days I have also talked to the Post Office about the counter services that thousands use at the Tesco superstore.
“I have also had detailed discussions with Fife Council’s Kirkcaldy a Chairman Neil Crooks and Fife Council leaders David Ross and Lesley Laird, all of whom I praise for their sterling efforts to retain jobs and services.
“I’ve met traders and residents – hearing especially from elderly citizens worried about the loss of the service so near the bus station and in the heart of the town’s High Street precinct.
“I will report back on my conversations and, with the agreement of councillors, we will make proposals for further action at the meeting.
“Tesco is facing a wave of local disquiet. We feel it is unprecedented for a store as big as this to pull out from a town of more than 50,000 people and to have no retail services within six miles.
“The postal service caters for between 3,500 and 5,000 people, mainly elderly citizens, every week.
“Its counter services cannot be lost. It is the main post office for Kirkcaldy and we must draw up plan for it to be saved.”
>> Tesco Kirkcaldy: The story so far ...
The latest developments come after an intense 24 hours of activity behind the scenes.
Petitions launched in-store and online and are gathering huge support, while politicians across all parties have mobilised to try to get the closure date put on hold to create the time needed to find a solution that keeps Tesco in town.
The supermarket plays a significant role in Kirkcaldy - the ripples of any closure would extend right across the town centre.
This is the single biggest retail closure to hit town in many, many year.
Tesco’s Hunter Street store brings thousands into town who then visit local cafes and others shops, it sustains arguably the single busiest taxi rank right on its doorstep, it is the anchor tenant of The Postings Shopping Centre, and it is the supermarket of choice for many elderly people.
Val McDermid hit the nail on the head when she tweeted ‘‘it isn’t a superstore - it’s a corner store.’’
That is exactly how people use it here - that is why it is so vital that the doors stay open.
News of the closure broke at midday on Wednesday. That sparked an instant response.
Councillor David Ross,leader of Fife Council, was immediately in touch with John Swinney, Scottish Government Finance Secretary, as well as Tesco and the Post office which now has to find a new base for its service in a matter of weeks.
Councillors also met with the team from Kirkaldy4All to assess the impact and look at what steps could be taken to challenge the decision. Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions group is also meeting to discuss the support it can give.
Mr Brown has been in contact with both Tesco and the Post Office, calling for an immediate moratorium on the closure to give Kirkcaldy time to come up with an action plan to save the store. He was in further talks with them today (Friday).
David Torrance MSP raised the closure during First Minister’s Questions, giving Nicola Sturgeon the opportunity to comment and offer her support.
Claire Baker MSP wrote directly to Mr Swinney to highlight the ‘‘devastating’’ job losses and called for action.
Further meetings were held on Friday with Mr Brown speaking direct to Tesco, and more and planned for Monday.
As a result, the Post office has publicly committed to staying in Kirkcaldy - but the town’s MP wants a cast iron assurance it will be within the town centre as so many people depend up the service.
The Post Office has publicly appealed to retailers and businesses to get in touch if it has space to accommodate them, but the Press understands one name has emerged as a possible new home - and it would be in the heart of the High Street.
Petitions have also been launched in a bid to generate community upport.
One exists within the store and yesterday saw the launch of an online petition by newly elected councillor, Marie Penman which has already attracted over 2500 supporters.
It is aimed directly at Dave Lewis, Tesco’s chief executive - the man dubbed ‘Drastic Dave’ by staff - and urges him to re-think his company’s decision to end four decades of retail in Hunter Street.
Cllr Penman said: ‘‘Tesco is the only supermarket in the centre of Kirkcaldy. Many of the people who shop there do not have cars but can shop there easily due to the store’s proximity to the bus station.
‘‘There are no other Tesco stores in the town and this particular one is well-used and always busy. Its closure will have a devastating effect on Kirkcaldy town centre. ‘‘
The Press is urging all its readers to sign the petition. Find it here
>> How you can help:
1. Attend public meeting at Town House, Monday 6,00 p.m.
2. Sign the petiion outside Tesco and in High Street this Saturday
3 Sign the online version via the link above.