Members of Scottish Parliament from across the political spectrum have called for greater support for independent convenience stores.
The comments came in a debate on ‘Scottish Convenience Store Sector’ inspired by the Scottish Grocer’s Federation. Politicians praised local shops and said they had a key role to play in Government’s plans to cust emissions and improve quality of life by providing more local amenities within easy reach of shoppers.
The SNP’s Gordon MacDonald explained: “The Scottish Government’s policy is to encourage local living and the development of 20-minute neighbourhoods where people can meet most of their daily needs within a reasonable distance of their home. Convenience stores are, by their very nature, at the heart of that policy.”
Conservative Murdo Fraser agreed: “If, as a society, we are concerned about meeting net zero targets, we want to have convenient services available to people, so having shops that people can buy their groceries in within walking or cycling distance of their homes makes a lot of sense.”
Macdonald also highlighted the Scottish Government-funded Go Local pilot, providing grants of up to £5,500 per local shop to add ‘dedicated long-term display space for locally sourced, fresh and healthy Scottish products’. Stores that took part in the pilot saw their sales of local goods increase by 40%. The grant scheme is now open to applications from all local shops in Scotland.
Despite the consensus on the role of shops and the Go Local initiative other parties accused the SNP of failing to adequately support them on business rates, crime and deposit return schemes.
Labour’s Martin Whitfield stated: “I am also aware of shopkeepers who, having gone to the police with closed-circuit television footage and the name and address of the person who has taken stuff from the shop, have received little or no support. We are talking about small shops that cannot survive if they continue to be exposed to that sort of theft.”
He concluded: “if we want to serve [local shops] in the way that they have served us for generations, we need to find a way to support the workers and the owners.”
Conservative Pam Ghosal said ‘chronic underfunding’ of Police Scotland meant: “The amount of retail crime that the convenience industry is currently dealing with is astounding, and our legal system is doing very little to help.”
“I hope that real actions will be taken to support the sector following this debate, she added.
Responding, SNP minister for Local Government Empowerment and Planning. Joe Fitzpatrick said: “I take that area really seriously, and the retail industry leadership group will look at doing a deep dive to see what more we can do collectively to deal with that challenge.”