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Illegal Cigarettes Partnership Must Address All Aspects of Black Market

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) has welcomed the launch of a joint initiative between the Scottish Government, trading standards officers and HMRC to tackle illegal and illicit sales of tobacco but warns it will be ineffective if focused solely on detecting the sale of illegal tobacco products in retail outlets.

SGF Chief Executive, John Drummond, said;

“There is a growing demand for smuggled imports of tobacco throughout the UK, with approximately 27% of cigarettes and 68% of roll your own tobacco purchased on the black market. SGF has been asking the Government for some time to develop a strategy, supported with adequate resources, to focus on the illegal trade in tobacco.

“Stemming the flow of illegal tobacco throughout communities is vital. A campaign which focuses solely on retail outlets is an easy way out and will not work. To be effective the initiative must focus on a sufficiently resourced street level enforcement campaign.

“Real measures to address the multi-billion black market in tobacco and adults who provide tobacco to under-18s can make a difference to reducing youth smoking. These are the interventions the Scottish Government should be supporting rather than tobacco display ban gimmicks.

“Only this week the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Kay, decided not to proceed with a tobacco display ban citing the lack of international evidence that a ban reduces youth smoking and the expense as the main reasons for reversing proposals for the ban.

“SGF has made these points repeatedly to the Scottish Government and we hope they will now review their proposals as a matter of urgency. This issue will be discussed at our Annual Conference to be held this weekend at the Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews. Over 300 delegates are expected to attend the conference made up of convenience store retailers and suppliers.”

SGF Community Store Campaigner Discusses Implications of Tobacco Display Ban with Local MSP

Murdo Fraser MSP with Community Store Campaigner Pete CheemaIndependent SPAR retailer and SGF Community Store Campaigner, Pete Cheema, recently met with Murdo Fraser MSP, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, at his Meigle store, to talk about the proposals to ban the display of tobacco in shops.

During the visit Pete was able to show Mr Fraser how impractical banning the display of tobacco would be due to the lack of storage behind the shop counter and they discussed the unintended consequences of a ban including a possible increase in transaction times, customer migration to larger stores and a greater opportunity for stock theft.

Pete Cheema said;

“Young people should not smoke and should be actively discouraged from doing so but rather than concentrating solely on sanctions directed at retailers to reduce youth smoking the Scottish Government must address the black market in tobacco and adults who provide tobacco to under –18s.”

Murdo Fraser MSP said;

“As a supporter of local shops I oppose policy changes that may put local shops in jeopardy. Despite there being no compelling evidence to indicate a display ban will reduce youth smoking, the Scottish Government is determined to proceed with a measure which will cost small shops thousands of pounds. This is reckless behaviour particularly during an economic downturn and is treating the businesses which will bear these additional costs and legislation as expendable.

“What are needed are effective deterrents against adults who give children cigarettes or allow them to be taken, education of young people and properly resourced policing of the black market.”

SGF Welcomes Government Support for Town Centres

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) has welcomed the passing of the Budget Bill in the Scottish Parliament, which includes measures to support town centres and cut business rates for small business.

The Budget includes a £60 million Town Centre Regeneration Fund and acceleration of the Small Business Bonus Scheme.

John Drummond, Chief Executive of SGF, said;

“Securing the vitality and viability of our town centres is critical for the future of our members’ businesses, many of which are located in high streets across Scotland.

“The town centre regeneration fund will inject desperately needed financial and practical help into town centres, whose decline has been accelerated due to the economic slowdown. It will encourage local communities to nurture a sense of pride in their town centres and assist small shops who rely on the support of their local community to trade successfully.

“The Small Business Bonus scheme will mean the difference between success and failure for some small businesses during the recession. Rates account for a higher proportion of turnover for small retailers than they do for supermarkets. Any help the Government can provide small shops is welcome.”

Town Centre Fund Essential for High Street Future

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) has welcomed talks between the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Government to establish a Town Centre Regeneration Fund, to help boost local communities and local high streets across Scotland. The Scottish Conservatives are pressing the Scottish Government for the fund to be included in the 2009-10 budget.

SGF Chief Executive, John Drummond, said;

“Sadly there has been a lack of investment in many high streets and town centres across Scotland for some time now. This lack of investment has been exacerbated by the economic slowdown. Five towns in Scotland – Kirkintilloch, Clydebank, Rutherglen, Kilmarnock and Cumbernauld, have already been predicted to turn into “ghost towns” due to the number of empty retails units which is set to increase as the economic crisis deepens.

“Local shops are at the heart of communities, especially in remote and rural areas. They support local economies and provide a vital service to some of the most isolated in society including those who do not have access to a car.

“Our members are constantly driving up standards in their stores but are finding it increasing difficult to compete with edge of town shopping centres especially when local residents are reluctant to shop in high streets which often display a lack of civic pride with litter, graffiti, vacant shops and youths hanging around in groups.

“We want to ensure town centres remain vibrant and vital. A Town Centre Regeneration Fund would enable local communities to decide how resources can best be allocated to maintain town centres and create an environment where residents want to shop and spend their free time.”

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