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What is United Wholesale Scotland and how is it connected to Anas Sarwar?

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During an interview with the BBC’s Sunday Show, Sarwar claimed his family business – United Wholesale Scotland – does not pay all of its workers the real living wage and was met with fierce criticism for doing so.

However, the union representing the workers has since released a statement saying the opposite.

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Here’s all you need to know.

What is United Wholesale Scotland?

According to its own website, United Wholesale (Scotland) is a “cash and carry” business which supplies customers with a range of products.

This ranges from frozen food items to tobacco to grocery products and the company has a range of depots, including in Pollokshields and on the M9 between Grangemouth and Falkirk.

The original business was founded by Mohammed Sarwar, father to Anas, and his brother Ramzan in the 1970s.

However, the Scottish Labour leader sold all of his shares in the family business in 2017 but his wife, mother and children all continue to benefit from the profits of the firm.

Why is it back in the news?

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Show, Sarwar was pressed on whether or not the business does not pay workers the real living wage.

After repeatedly dodging the question, he eventually said that “I don’t believe that every single staff member is on the real living wage”.

The SNP’s longest serving MP described the admission as “shocking” while Stephen Flynn was also among those to criticise Sarwar.

What has the union said?

In spite of Sarwar’s comments, the union representing workers at United Wholesale Scotland insisted workers are in fact paid at least the real living wage.

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A spokesperson for Usdaw said: “Usdaw has a trade union recognition agreement with United Wholesale Scotland and we negotiate on pay with the company.

“In our last negotiation we agreed a pay deal that delivered an income higher than the real living wage for all employees.”

Has this issue come up before?

This is far from the first time this topic has proved difficult for Sarwar (below), having previously had to speak on the issue during his run to be Scottish Labour leader in 2017.

The National: Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has called for an election once the SNP has a new leader (Jane Barlow/PA)

At the time, there was similar criticism over the allegations that the business did not pay all staff the real living wage.

As a result, Sarwar relinquished all shares in the business and signed a discretionary trust deed which meant he could never access the assets.

In October 2023, the story came up once again as the Scottish Labour leader was branded a hypocrite with reports that the business still did not pay the real living wage.

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