The Cross-Party Group on Convenience Retailing met for the third time at Holyrood last month and took the chance to highlight some best practice activity the industry has already carried out.
by Antony Begley
The third official meeting of the ground-breaking Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Convenience Retailing took place at Holyrood last month as another packed room gathered to get down to the very important business of highlighting the huge value, scale and importance of the Scottish local retailing trade to the wider Scottish economy.
The focus of the most recent meeting was firmly on making Scotland’s politicians aware of some of the great best practice work already being carried out locally, on issues like responsible alcohol consumption and healthier eating.
The precise role that local retailers should play in reducing alcohol consumption and improving diets is a contentious issue, but the reality remains that the local retailing trade has been among the most active parties in furthering the healthier, happier agenda that the Scottish Government is keen to pursue.
It was exactly this point that the meeting was intended to drive home to the MSPs in attendance and was based around two insightful presentations given by Police Scotland and Edinburgh Premier retailer Linda Williams.
Asking for trouble
The Police Scotland talk, given by Alistair Anderson and Scott Brown, outlined the success of a Scottish Alcohol Industry Partnership campaign, carried out in the Motherwell and Wishaw area, aimed at reducing proxy alcohol purchasing, under-age drinking and attendant anti-social behaviour.
The ‘You’re Asking For Trouble’ multi-agency campaign saw Police Scotland, the North Lanarkshire Community Safety Partnership and North Lanarkshire Council work together from April to October 2016 with retailers to clamp down on under-age drinking and was hailed by Anderson as a “phenomenal success.”
He told the CPG: “I’ve been 29 years in policing and I’ve worked in a lot of partnerships in that time, but I would have to say that was a standout partnership, and it shows just what can be achieved when it’s done well.”
In total, over the six-month trial, reported drinking offences fell by 20%, calls to the Police about drink-related issues fell by 50%, reports of anti-social behaviour fell by 13%, and reports of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour fell by 21%.
Encouragingly, the “vast, vast majority” of convenience retailers were enthusiastically supportive with only “three or four premises proving quite uncooperative”. The success of the scheme has led to other Council areas examining the possibility of rolling it out on a wider basis.
The second presentation, given by Linda Williams, outlined the success of a series of SGF Healthy Living Big Breakfasts initiative, carried out with local primary schools to allow young pupils to learn about the importance of a healthy breakfast and sample a range of healthier options.
These two presentations did a great job of reinforcing the fantastic, proactive role that local retailers play in the heart of their communities, providing far more than just a venue to sell products to customers.
The CPG has plans for many more initiatives of this kind as it strives to influence the influencers, the MSPs that ultimately end up making important decisions that can have big impacts on the local retailing sector in Scotland. It’s vital that our politicians truly understand our trade if we expect them to make informed, sensible decisions on our behalf.
That requires input from the entire industry – and all retailers, wholesalers and suppliers are invited to attend the next CPG meeting which takes place at Holyrood at 6pm on 23 May 2017.