Social entrepreneur and parliamentarian Lord John Bird will be the keynote speaker at the 2016 Scottish Wholesale Association Annual Conference.

Lord Bird, 70, who was brought up in an orphanage and served time in a young offenders' institution before he was out of his teens and slept rough as one of London's homeless, founded the now world-famous Big Issue - the weekly magazine sold on the streets of the UK by vendors who are homeless and vulnerably accommodated - in 1991.

In transforming himself from being part of the problem of society into being part of the solution, Lord Bird has become a globally admired social entrepreneur. Although strictly non-political, he has been consulted by Prime Ministers and Cabinet ministers on how best to lift people out of poverty through harnessing their own energies.

A newly-created peer, Lord Bird of Notting Hill sits in the House of Lords and will be the guest speaker closing the final business session of the conference, taking place at Crieff Hydro in Perthshire from June 10-12.

Themed 'Grasp the Thistle', the conference has also attracted a stellar line-up of speakers from within the UK wholesale industry as well as leading suppliers and supporters of the Association.

They are:

  • Andrew Selley, chief executive, Bidvest
  • Stewart Gilliland, non-executive chairman, Booker Group
  • Craig Stevenson, chief executive, Braehead Foods
  • Martin Race, group trading director, Batleys/Bestway
  • Peppi Cremona, sales director (off-trade wholesale & convenience), AB InBev
  • Rez Hassan, vice-president sales, Mars Chocolate UK
  • Katie Hemmings, director, him!
  • Andy Stevens, head of sales UK, JTI
  • Nigel Paine, sales director, Britvic
  • Mark Winter, sales director, United Biscuits
  • Jonathan Kemp, commercial director, AG Barr
  • Iain Hill, managing director, Iain Hill Ltd
  • Jim Cummiskey, joint managing director, Fáilte Foods
  • Paul Waterson, chief executive, SLTA

The Association's president Eddie Lynagh will open and close the conference while vice-president Julie Dunn will open proceedings on Saturday and introduce participants in the trade organisation's current Mentoring Programme who will talk about the benefits to them as individuals and also their employers.

Kate Salmon, executive director, said: "Once again we have secured an outstanding group of high-profile speakers who will inspire and motivate our members, and share best industry practice. Our members collectively operate 78 depots and employ 6,900 employees generating in excess of £3 billion a year - our sector is a key contributor to the Scottish economy - and the calibre of those who are prepared to give up their time to share their views clearly reflects this.

"Striving for best practice and learning from others will help strengthen the wholesale industry and encourage more effective engagement between wholesalers and suppliers as well as highlight the challenges facing our members and the wider wholesale industry."

To book your place at the conference please contact All sponsorship queries should be directed to Kate Salmon on 0131 556 8753 or