Members of Lothian Borders & Angus Co-operative Society have voted overwhelmingly in favour of merging with The Co-operative Group.

Ninety-eight percent of members voted in favour of the deal, which will add 66 food, pharmacy, petrol, funeral and non-food outlets to the Co-op Group's burgeoning portfolio of 4,300 outlets.

“I am delighted the proposed merger, which we are making from a position of considerable strength, has received such overwhelming support from our members,” said chief executive Bob Jamieson.

“As we both share a common co-operative heritage, I am confident that our members and regular shoppers will benefit from the extended services that will be offered once the Co-op Group has integrated its operations into ours,” he added.

Lothian Co-op becomes the first smaller society to merge with the Co-op Group since its £1.57bn acquisition of Somerfield in July. Co-op Group chief executive Peter Marks is a long-term supporter of a single co-op society.

“Following the success of last year¹s merger of the Co-op Group and United Co-operatives, I am sure that further consolidation in the UK co-operative movement is the best way to ensure a strong future for all co-operative members and employees,” Marks said.