Nicola Sturgeon has praised the actions of Scotland’s local retailers during the pandemic.
Her remarks came during a keynote address to the Scottish Grocers Federation annual conference.
Commenting on the lockdown, The First Minister said: “You weren’t simply a source of vital supplies and services, but for some people, and perhaps especially people who live on their own, you provided a much needed source of conversation, support, and human contact. That was really important, and I want to thank you for it.”
However, Sturgeon also pointed out that the pandemic is “not quite over yet” and that case numbers – thanks to the delta variant – are “worryingly high” again. She stressed the importance of all businesses continuing to do everything to ensure staff and customers are as safe as possible, to avoid any risk over the winter of the closure of parts of the economy again.
Sturgeon also gave her backing to SGF’s recently-launched campaign to encourage colleagues to report all incidents of retail crime, which coincided with the Protection of Shopworkers Act becoming law.
She said: “Abuse and threats of violence against retail workers are always unacceptable, and unacceptable in any context whatsoever. The ‘Don’t Put Up With It’ campaign makes that very clear and importantly, it also encourages people to report these incidents. I want to make clear to you that the Scottish government strongly supports the campaign.”
In a 15-minute speech, Sturgeon also found time to praise SGF’s Healthy Living Programme, which she hailed as “one of the best anywhere in our country” and secured its long-term future by assuring the audience she viewed it as “a permanent feature of what we do in Scotland”.
There was praise too for the Go Local scheme, which is to benefit from an additional £190,000 in Scottish government funding to help a further 21 stores increase their range of Scottish products.
Sturgeon was preceded on stage by SGF boss Pete Cheema, who had railed against the growing threat to convenience retailers from the likes of Amazon, directly calling on the First Minister to address “the larger issue of more legislation focused on punishing physical-based retailers, rather than online retailers”.
In response, Sturgeon admitted that the lack of a level playing field between online and physical retail was an issue that “does require ever greater attention,” while pointing out the Scottish Government’s very limited powers regarding taxation.
In conclusion, she once again expressed her appreciation for retailers: “Thank you so much for everything you have done over this unprecedented incredibly challenging period. I very much look forward to working with you in the years to come.”