Government responds to SRC demands
Brown agrees to talks on retail action plan
Retail leaders have welcomed a commitment from the Scottish Government to help create a strategy for the sector.
Keith Brown, Economy Secretary, confirmed that the administration would work with the Scottish Retail Consortium to produce a Retail Industry Strategy for Scotland.
He was responding to a written parliamentary question from Labour’s Jackie Baillie who ‘asked the Scottish Government whether it will bring forward a specific retail strategy working in collaboration with the sector.”
Mr Brown replied: “Yes. The Scottish Government and the Scottish Retail Consortium are now working together to develop a retail strategy or action plan.”
However, there are likely to remain some sticking points between the government and retailers, not least over wage rates. Andrew Murphy, chairman of the SRC, recently urged Mr Brown to minimise the impact of cost burdens on the industry, including staff costs such as the living wage. He told Daily Business in an interview that he did not support the living wage, describing it as “ultimately destructive”.
At an event in Edinburgh last night Mr Brown told an audience that he was not in agreement with the retail sector on this issue and wanted to see retailers commit to the living wage, which in turn would raise spending power.
Developing a strategic plan was demanded by the SRC in its Scottish Budget submission published last August, and again in its recent ‘Future of Scottish Retail’ report published in April.
David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, said: “We are delighted that the Scottish Government and the Economy Secretary in particular has listened to our representations and that he and his officials are prepared to work with us to develop a retail action plan or strategy.
“Scotland’s retail industry is undergoing seismic change driven by changes in shopping habits, new technology, stiff competition, and burgeoning costs.
“The commitment to developing a joint strategy is really positive and welcome and should hopefully result in a more strategic approach towards public policy which supports and nurtures the growth of the industry, helping it fulfil its potential over the decade ahead.
“This will be of benefit to retail and the customers it serves, but also its supply chain and the other sectors it touches.
“Retail is the largest private sector employer in Scotland, and accounts for a fifth of business rates. With half of VAT receipts – approximately £4 billion – set to be devolved to Holyrood in two years’ time, both government and retailers have a shared interest in improving the conditions for the industry to flourish and succeed.”
Retail employs 252,000 people in Scotland and is the largest private sector employer
Retail accounts for almost 6% of Scottish GVA
Retail accounted for 13% of all new businesses formed in Scotland last year
Scotland’s retailers donated £10 million to charitable causes last year
Retail accounts for a fifth of all business rates in Scotland