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Take Retailers Out of Business Rates

The Scottish Grocers Federation has called for more small businesses – including convenience store retailers – to be completely taken out of the Business Rates system in Scotland.

In its submission to the Barclay Review Group, the body established by the Scottish government to reform the business rates system, SGF argued that such a move would be fairer and would make the system less complex, more efficient and more cost effective.

Such a move would make more frequent valuations easier, lead to fewer appeals and reduce the overall work load of the Scottish Assessors. The Federation is also calling for annual revaluations to ensure that rateable values maintain a close relationship to market conditions.

In line with the ‘market approach’ favoured by SGF, occupier improvements should be excluded from any revaluations. This would encourage investment and avoid an unfair tax burden being applied to any retailer who had upgraded and refitted their store. SGF Chief Executive Pete Cheema commented,

 

“We know from the new Scottish Local Shop Report that in 2015 there were 3,000 jobs lost in the convenience store sector and store numbers fell by almost 300 - this is the first time we have seen reductions like this since 2012. We are now seeing the cumulative impact of constantly increasing business costs. We need to reduce the rates burden on retailers and taking as many of them out of the system as possible is the best way to do this.”

Parliament Breakthrough For C-Stores

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) has hailed a major breakthrough in its political engagement work. Holyrood has given its backing to a proposal from SGF and MSP Gordon MacDonald to establish a Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group (CPG) on Independent Convenience Stores.

For the past 12 months SGF has been working closely with Mr MacDonald - the SNP MSP for the Edinburgh Pentlands constituency – to get the Group up and running. In a major step forward, the CPG held its inaugural meeting last in Parliament in September. The meeting itself was extremely successful both in terms of SGF stakeholders who attended and in terms of support from MSPs. Support from at least three MSPs is required for CPGs to be approved but in fact eleven MSPs registered to become members of the Group: a genuinely impressive level of commitment from MSPs

Despite this the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament required that the CPG had to be officially approved by Parliament itself. However, recognising the success of the inaugural meeting, The Scottish Parliament Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee has now fully endorsed and approved the establishment of the Cross Party Group on Independent Convenience Stores. Gordon MacDonald MSP was appointed Convenor with John Lee, Head of Public Affairs at SGF being appointed to the Group Secretariat.

Gordon MacDonald MSP commented,

“Convenience stores are the corner stones of our communities. Scotland has more convenience stores per had of population than any other part of the UK and these stores provide over 41,000 jobs – it’s time this important sector in the Scottish economy got the recognition it deserves.”

This is the first time a retail-focused group has been set up within the Scottish Parliament, it will provide a unique platform for MSPs to engage with retailers and stakeholders from across the supply chain on the key issues affecting the retail industry in Scotland. The CPG will now push forward with its next meeting, to be held in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd November.

 

 

 

Proxy Purchase Campaign Goes Viral

A retailer-led proxy purchase campaign in Edinburgh has gone viral one week after launch.  The first campaign message to be posted on Police Scotland’s Edinburgh Division Facebook page has reached over 78,000 people, been shared 365 time and received 120 comments. The post highlights to young people that proxy purchase is a serious offence and that if they are detected asking someone to buy alcohol on their behalf the police will intervene swiftly. The post features the distinctive ‘Police Taxi’ image developed as part of the campaign materials. The campaign focuses on the Leith area of the city and includes operational activity by both uniformed and undercover police officers from the Divisional Violence Reduction Unit.

 John Lee, head of public affairs at SGF and chair of the Scottish Alcohol Industry Partnership campaigns group commented, 

 

“Social media is an integral part of the overall campaign strategy and we can see how effective this is – the first post has reached almost 80,000 people in the city. Taken together, the use of social media, outdoor media such as street vinyls and digital advertising means that one week on from launch we already have a very high profile campaign.”

SGF Moves Forward At Westminster and Holyrood

The Scottish Grocer’ Federation continues to take important steps forward in having the retailers voice heard at both Westminster and Holyrood. Wednesday 22nd June saw a meeting between SGF and Lord Andrew Dunlop, the undersecretary of state for Scotland. The meeting – which took place at No 10 Downing Street – was a follow-up to Lord Dunlop’s keynote address at the SGF ‘Success in Scotland’ summit in March.

 A key topic for discussion was the increasing involvement of companies like Amazon in providing on-line grocery shopping. SGF are concerned that these companies often receive tax advantages which could give them a competitive edge and put more pressure on independent retailers in an already hyper-competitive UK grocery retail market. Lord Dunlop instructed  his officials to send SGF a paper outlining the steps the UK government are currently taking to ensure a level playing field on tax. The Scotland Office would welcome any comments from SGF on the effective of these measures and how they could be enhanced. Overall officials are keen to look more closely at a range of issues impacting on retailers.

 The under-secretary of state also stressed that the UK government increasingly sees the importance of the independent convenience store sector and that the Scotland Office is committed to strengthening its relations with SGF and its retail members. Scotland Office officials are working with the Cabinet Office to secure the attendance of a Cabinet Minister at SGF’s annual conference.

 SGF chief executive Pete Cheema said,

 “we are determined to strengthen our relationships with the UK government – there are still key reserved issues which impact on business in Scotland. We have been very encouraged by the commitment Lord Dunlop and the Scotland Office have made to working constructively with the Federation”.

 Meanwhile at Hoyrood SGF is making another push to establish a cross party group in the Scottish Parliament. Supported by Gordon MacDonald MSP, the group would bring retail issues directly into the Scottish Parliament. MSPs are currently being canvassed to gauge the level of cross party support for the group. It is hoped that the first meeting of the group will take place in September.

 

 

 

 

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