A strong and very consistent part of our key messages is that independent convenience stores provide vital services to our communities. 

It is also true that convenience stores are a vital element in a very wide range of policy issues. This is why convenience retailers are at the sharp end of a seemingly unending procession of legislation and regulation. Convenience retailers interact with millions of customers every day and do so in a very direct and personal way: That is why they are such a focus for government policy. 

The Scottish government’s proposals for its new Best Start initiative to help ensure families can purchase food items illustrates this perfectly. The initiative is a reboot of the old Healthy Start voucher scheme. It will now be based on smart cards rather than vouchers, ensuring that retailers are reimbursed immediately and that there is little or no administrative work required. 

Clearly the cooperation and active participation of retailers is absolutely vital. Retailers themselves need to be aware of and willing to work within the new system and they have a key role to play in raising customer awareness. The key to success is making sure the system works seamlessly and that no stigma attaches to the families who are eligible to participate.

Once again if the government’s policy aims – promoting nutrition, health and wellbeing – are to be achieved the convenience industry are a key part of the equation. The Scottish government is currently consulting on the new proposals, with direct input from SGF.