Scottish Government backs Shopworker Protection Bill

Daniel Johnson

In a rare bit of positive news from Holyrood, the Scottish Government has backed Daniel Johnson’s Shopworkers Protection Bill, paving the way for much needed extra support and protection for all local retailers.

by Antony Begley

In a potentially historic development for the Scottish local retailing sector, the Scottish Government announced has backed Daniel Johnson’s Shopworkers Protection Bill, paving the way for long overdue extra support and protection for all Scottish local retailers.

Only days after the Westminster Government had declared itself “not persuaded” that a specific offence needed to be introduced to offer more protection to shopworkers, the Scottish Government came out in support of a Bill designed to do just that.

The UK government’s comments were in direct response to a petition from trade union Usdaw, and signed by more than 60,000 people, demanding better protection for shopworkers. While The Ministry of Justice said it was ”sympathetic to the motivations behind the petition”, it remained “unpersuaded of the need for a specific offence as there are already a wide range of offences which exist and which cover assaults against any worker, including shop workers and those selling age-restricted items.”

Only days later, the Scottish Government announced that it would support the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill at the Stage 1 vote, as it duly did. The Bill will now move forward to Stage 2 where it will undergo detailed scrutiny and debate with any potential amendments also being considered.

The Bill was brought forward by Edinburgh South MSP Daniel Johnson and will give shop staff additional legal protection when carrying out their work, particularly in relation to assault or abuse in relation to a mandatory activity such as requesting ID for age-restricted products.

Johnson said: “I’m delighted to see the Scottish Government supporting my Bill at stage 1, adding their backing to this important issue along with trade unions and retail groups across the country. Dialogue with ministers in recent weeks has been useful in identifying understanding on this important issue.

“Passing my bill into law will provide an important recognition of the key duty shopworkers have upholding the law and the issues they face doing so. Most critically, the pandemic has seen people working in retail performing critical roles, supplying the basic essentials to all of us and keeping us safe as we do so. This bill pays an important tribute to these efforts over the last six months.”

Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) Policy Manager Luke McGarty said: “Serious in-store retail crime is not going away and impacts on retailers, their staff, their families, customers and the wider community. The Bill represents a unique – perhaps a once in a generation – opportunity to create a safer retail environment.

The Scottish Retail Consortium was also in favour. Its Head of Policy Ewan MacDonald-Russell commented: “The bill is an opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to lead the way in in the UK in supporting hard-working retail staff – and we hope all parties will support the thrust of the legislation.”