TACKLING crime against retailers was the focal point of discussions at the latest meeting of the Cross Party Group on Independent Convenience Stores, held at the Scottish Parliament on 23 May.
Subjects under discussion included a proposed bill to offer shopworkers similar protection under the law as emergency workers, as well as issues around theft and underage sales.
The proposed bill, which is being backed by former retailer Daniel Johnson MSP and the Scottish Grocers Federation, with support from legal experts at TLT LLP, is in its infant stages, but Johnson told the group he hopes to see a consultation on the issue opened in the autumn – starting the process that would lead to a new law.
Michael McDougal, licensing solicitor at TLT, outlined the legal case for legislation protecting shopworkers and added that when the consultation is open it is crucial that the industry responds.
Maxine Fraser, managing director of Retailers Against Crime, a not-for-profit information sharing partnership operating in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North West of England, also spoke at the meeting, outlining the steps the organisation is taking in local communities to deter retail crime.
Fraser described work carried out by the organisation, including a recent visit to an Ayrshire school to talk to children about the effect of crime on both retailers and perpetrators.
Retailers in attendance also discussed their relationship with Police Scotland, with some highlighting a difference in the quality of response depending on the nature of the crime reported.
Concerns raised included the time costs for retailers if they are asked to fill out a statement following an incident in their store or attend court.
It was also revealed that the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) has been working with the procurator fiscal and Police Scotland to create a “statement pack”, which would allow retailers to fill out a statement following an incident at a time that suits them, for Police Scotland to then collect. The pack has been trialled, with the SBRC hoping to roll it out nationwide in the future.
Anne-Marie Canham, business development executive for non-profit organisation Under Age Sales Ltd was also in attendance, providing a presentation on the abuse and violence towards retail staff that can occur when challenging customers for ID.
Other business at the Cross Party Group included an invitation from The Public Petitions Committee to the group asking for its views on a petition calling the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to ban the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to children under sixteen years of age.
The group agreed to draft a formal response to be submitted by the 19 June deadline.
It was also agreed that a proposed Deposit Return Scheme for recyclable drinks containers would be the subject of the group’s next meeting on 12 September. The group agreed to invite Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, to its next meeting to discuss the issue.