Local retail was high on the agenda at Holyrood yesterday (12th January) as SGF’s Scottish Local Shop Report was welcomed by MSPs as a “significant resource in increasing their understanding of the independent convenience store industry in Scotland”.
The praise came as MSPs from all parties contributed to a members’ debate brought forward by Gordon MacDonald. The Edinburgh MSP had originally lodged a parliamentary motion congratulating SGF on the publication of the report; the motion attracted so much cross-party support that it was taken for forward for a debate in the chamber.
In his speech MacDonald highlighted that there are more convenience stores per head of population in Scotland than in the rest of the UK, that the sector in Scotland provides over 44,000 jobs and that in 2015 there was net growth in the sector of one new store opening per week. Lewis MacDonald highlighted the ongoing issue of illicit trade and called for the Scottish government to add responsibility for combatting this threat to a Ministerial Portfolio.
Speaking on behalf of the Scottish government, Minister for Business Fergus Ewing also highlighted that the industry in Scotland is highly entrepreneurial with 65% of retailers being the first person in their family to run a convenience store. The Minister re-iterated his pledge to maintain the small business bonus scheme for business rates throughout the lifetime of the next parliament and called for cross party support for this.
SGF Head of Public Affairs John Lee was present at the debate. He commented: “The response from MSPs to the report has been overwhelmingly positive and it will undoubtedly improve their understanding of our industry. The Minister’s comments on the small business bonus scheme were very welcome and we will work with him to try to create the cross party support required to ensure the scheme becomes a permanent fixture within the business rates system.”