A safer working environment – and not before time

Antony Begley

Last month, a little bit of history was made in the Scottish Parliament as Daniel Johnson MSP’s Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill was formally voted through Stage 3 of the parliamentary process, clearing the way for the Bill to become law in Scotland later this year.

The Bill is expected to gain Royal Assent within the next few months and should be enacted in law around six months after that, creating a brand new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker. It will provide further legal protections when the worker is carrying out their statutory duties such as age-restricted sales.

In other words, retail workers across Scotland will receive a richly deserved and hugely important new level of protection in the eyes of the law. This is a potentially transformative development for our sector and could be the beginning of the end of the daily abuse and violence that has blighted local retailing for decades. Spare a thought, however, for our industry colleagues across the rest of the UK. The UK government has repeatedly shown itself entirely unwilling to follow suit, leaving retail staff to face the horrors that are apparently accepted as ‘just part of the job’.

Daniel Johnson actually campaigned on a #notpartofthejob hashtag while forcing this Bill through and it’s entirely baffling that the UK government doesn’t appear to agree that shopworkers need more support, despite the endless stream of depressing statistics and horrendous CCTV footage of customers rampaging around stores, destroying stock and terrorising staff.

So, this is a massive moment for the local retailing industry in Scotland and we should all take a quiet moment to offer a little private thanks to Daniel Johnson, and indeed to the team at SGF who played such a vital role in the genesis of this Bill and its journey from nothing more than idea to an Act of Parliament.

We were lucky enough to secure an exclusive interview with Johnson, just an hour or two before the historic vote – and his comments make for interesting reading. A former retailer himself, he is only too familiar with the challenges of life on the front line and his commitment to getting this Bill past the finishing post is entirely praiseworthy. There is now light at the end of the in-store abuse tunnel – and let’s hope that Westminster does the right thing and follows suit sooner rather than later.

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Antony Begley, Publishing Director