Scottish distr ict president Aleem Farooqi

The Fed’s Scottish president has laid bare the impact that retail crime has on independent retailers one year on from a landmark law to protect shop workers north of the border

In an article, published by Scottish newspaper The Herald, Aleem Farooqi called for the Protection of Workers law, which sees tougher penalties for attacks against retail workers, to be fully enforced. 

“Corner stores can’t usually afford security guards and at some times in the day they may be the only person in the shop,” he said. “Moreover, retailers sometimes live with their families above the shop. It means there’s a particular resonance if a thief says: ‘I know where you live.’ 

“We have been followed to our cars late at night, threatened with being stabbed and having our shops burned down.” 

Farooqi went on to describe the link between shoplifting and abuse and violence suffered by shop-workers. 

“We ask for the law to protect us, not least because the flashpoint for abuse and violence is often our enforcement of the laws on shoplifting and sales of alcohol and cigarettes,” he said. 

Latest figures from Police Scotland indicate shoplifting crimes rose by 12% to almost 23,000 incidents in the year to March 2022. 

The ongoing cost-of-living crisis was also of worry to shop owners, Farooqi added, because of the threat of violence coupled with the loss of income for retailers already trying to cope with soaring costs. 

“You stress over the theft that you witness, but the covert shoplifting may be more significant as retailers struggle to deal with soaring costs and struggle to avoid becoming one more closed shop on their street,” he said. 

“Figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium indicate that one in six shops lies empty. I know this only too well as The Fed represents small shopkeepers facing huge challenges in towns and villages. 

“They are often the backbone of their communities and sorely missed if they disappear.” 

The Protection of Workers law was instigated by former retailer Daniel Johnson MSP and came into force in Scotland on 24 August 2021. 

It created a specific offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing retail workers, in particular those carrying out age-restricted sales. 

A similar law came into force in England and Wales this year

“I am grateful for the law instigated by Daniel Johnson MSP,” Farooqi added. 

“I’d like to hope that one day the law makes a real impact on the stress, fear and financial impact of retail crime.” 

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