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Support Grows For protecting Shopworkers

SGF’s recent hustings event attracted a top class panel of speakers from all the main political parties which included Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Scottish Conservative economy spokesman Murdo Fraser. The event also saw the launch of the SGF manifesto for Holyrood 2016.

 A key area of focus for SGF in 2016 has been retail crime: in February the Federation published its first retail crime report and standards charter for safer businesses. The report showed that almost a quarter of convenience stores experience violence and abuse on a daily basis. This – and several recent cases of shocking violence against retailers – has led the Federation to call for shop workers to be given the same legal protection as emergency workers. The Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act of 2005 made it a specific offence to hinder, obstruct or assault someone in the provision of an emergency service. An attempt in the Scottish Parliament to extend this to shop workers was defeated in 2010.

During some forceful questioning on this issue, John Swinney indicated that a new SNP government would be willing to consider further legal protections for shop workers. Jeremy Purvis for the Liberal Democrats admitted that, while he had not supported the attempt to bring this forward in 2005, six years on he now thought the time was right to reconsider the issue. Murdo Fraser stated that, because of the evidence from SGF, the new Parliament should look again at retail crime. Speaking on behalf of Scottish Labour, Daniel Johnston said that as a retailer himself he knew how serious this issue was and that he would support legislation to protect shop workers. SGF Chief Executive Pete Cheema had this to say:

“We very much welcome the consensus that has emerged from our hustings event about the importance of retail crime and the need to look at the most effective ways in which we can protect shop workers. The cross party support we have seen here will be vital in ensuring we get the legislation retailers need”.

SGF Slams Sugar Tax

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation has expressed strong disappointment in the budget announcement by the Chancellor that a sugar tax will be levied on the soft drinks industry. The levy will be introduced in two years' time, to give companies time to adapt products to reduce their sugar content. SGF pointed out that the majority of soft drinks now sold in the UK are actually low and no calorie including nearly half (49% of all carbonates). Soft drinks contributed 8.8% of household sugar consumption in 2015, down from 10.1% in 2011.

 Chief Executive Pete Cheema commented,

 

 “This measure by the Chancellor completely ignores the efforts taken by the soft drinks industry to reformulate their products, promote low or no calorie alternatives and the commitment not to advertise high sugar soft drinks to under 16s. Additionally – and of great concern to retailers – is that this is likely simply to pass on the cost to consumers This is despite the Chancellor suggesting last year that the obesity problem would be best tackled in other ways.”

 

 It has been estimated that Scotland enjoys direct benefits of some £289m gross value added from the manufacturing of soft drinks, higher than any other UK region.

 

SGF Retail Crime Seminar

In 2014 92% of convenience store retailers experienced some form of shop theft – almost a quarter on a daily basis. That was one of the shocking statistics unveiled at the inaugural Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) Retail Crime Seminar on 16th February. The data came from the SGF retail crime survey and formed part of the SGF Retail Crime Report, which was launched at the event. The report was developed in partnership with the Scottish Business Resilience Centre and also contained a comprehensive guide to increasing security and preventing crime in-store. SGF’s crime survey also showed that most of the threatening and abusive incidents towards staff were triggered either by a refusal of sale or requests for ID.

The seminar will highlight the case of Mr Mohammed Jawed who was subjected to an horrifically violent attack in his Glasgow store in January. SGF issued a call for the Scottish government to bring forward legislation to give shop workers the same legal protections as emergency workers, which currently they do not have. SGF announced that this would be a key part of their manifesto for the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election.

A key speaker was Assistant Chief Constable Kate Thomson of Police Scotland, who launched the Standards Charter for Safer Business. The Charter has been developed by SGF and the Scottish Business Resilience Centre and has been endorsed by Police Scotland. The Charter provides a step by step checklist for ensuring businesses reduce the opportunities for a crime to occur. A key theme of the seminar was the importance of partnership working to effectively deal with and reduce in-store crime.

SGF Chief Executive Pete Cheema said,

“We know how serious in-store crime can be so it’s vital that we work effectively with Police Scotland and the other key agencies to create a safe working environment for retailers. In store crime impacts on retailers, their staff, their families and on customers. That’s why we are calling on whichever party forms the next Scottish government to pass legislation to give shop workers the same protection as emergency workers. Shop workers are front line staff and are too often at the sharp end of violence and intimidation.”

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, the Scottish government Minister for Community Safety has requested that copies of the Crime Report and Standards Charter be sent to him in advance of a meeting with SGF to discuss how new legislation can be developed.

SGF Launches Local Shop Report In Parliament

Leaders of the main political parties in Scotland  and a former First Minister attended the parliamentary launch by SGF of the Scottish Local Shop Report. 30 MSPs were presented with their own copy of the report, which had already been welcomed during a debate in the chamber at Holyrood as a significant resources for MSPs in understanding the importance and impact of the independent convenience store sector in Scotland.

Labour Party leader Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and former First Minister Alex Salmond were present to discuss the findings of the report with key SGF retailers . Alex Salmond also agreed to arrange a meeting between SGF and the SNP parliamentary group at Westminster to discuss the impact of reserved issues on the convenience store sector in Scotland.

 

SGF chief executive Pete Cheema said,

 

“We have been delighted by the way MSPs have welcomed the publication of this report, which we have produced in partnership with ACS. The launch event is part of a campaign of political engagement in the run up to the Scottish Parliament election in May. We are also calling on every candidate in the election to visit their local store and get behind the counter to get to grips with the real issues facing our industry.”

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