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Labour backs £75 voucher scheme to boost shops

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Shops would welcome a voucher scheme

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar today unveiled plans for a shopping voucher scheme for every adult in Scotland, claiming it would be the largest economic stimulus plan in the history of devolution.

It would be targeted at saving Scotland’s high streets and tourism industry with a £75 prepaid card to be spent in non-food shops. The scheme is likely to cost in the region of £341 million.

Retail chiefs and the Federation of Small Businesses are among those that have called for Scotland to follow the example of Northern Ireland where last November Finance Minister Conor Murphy put £95m into a pre-paid card scheme expected to be introduced when lockdown ends. Malta and Jersey have similar initiatives.

The Scottish Labour leader revealed that his manifesto will propose a similar scheme to bring people back to the high street post-lockdown and a Great Scottish Staycation offering a third night free.

The package is aimed at helping these vital sectors survive by encouraging shoppers and tourists to support their local economies, when safe to do so, and readdressing the balance following the boom for large online retailers.

Anas Sarwar

Anas Sarwar: rewarding families (pic: Terry Murden)

High street closures started before the Covid pandemic, and have been exacerbated by the move of retail online during the pandemic – at the expense of many smaller businesses.

“This is a chance to reward Scottish families for their sacrifices in the last year and help keep fellow Scots in work to support our national recovery,” said Mr Sarwar.

The first part of Labour’s plan would see every adult aged 16 and over given a £75 prepaid card  to spend in non-food businesses within Scotland. 

The scheme would be time-limited, starting in June (or whenever it is safe to reopen retail) and lasting for six months, and could not be used for online purchases.

It would be launched alongside a ‘shop local’ campaign designed to encourage people to support their local high streets.

Any unspent cash at the end of that period would be donated to food banks. 

To jumpstart Scotland’s tourism industry, Scottish Labour would also promote the Great Scottish Staycation 2021.

It would offer a ‘3rd Night Free’ Scottish Government funded subsidy of holiday accommodation across Scotland, including hotels, B&Bs and self-catering.

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It would be accompanied by a ‘Scotland is open’ campaign to welcome visitors from across the British Isles. Any tourist travelling within or to Scotland from the British Isles in September, October and November 2021 would be eligible for the scheme – which would aim to support the anticipated green shoots of recovery in the tourism sector through the traditional off season. 

The policy would apply to off-peak dates, including COP26, would be excluded from the scheme.

The scheme will contribute up to £50 per person to the cost of their third night’s accommodation, capped at £100 per hotel room or £50 per person in other accommodation. 

This funding would also help bridge losses to a sector that supports 217,000 jobs and is worth £11 billion annually. 

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “This is a big, bold and imaginative proposal to help reignite the economy after lockdown and back shops and retail destinations which have been left reeling by the impact of the pandemic.

“It could trigger additional spending by shoppers and consumers beyond the value of the voucher transaction, creating an even larger economic multiplier.”

See also: High street stores in hiring spree ahead of reopening



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