SGF Tells Holyrood to “take its hands out of its pockets” and put an emergency plan into action
In dramatic evidence of a fast-deteriorating situation, Police Scotland figures show that there have been almost 8,000 cases of abuse and assaults of retail staff reported in the past two years. At a recent meeting of lead retail representatives, The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) received cross-sector reports of a shop theft having doubled in recent months, compared to the same period in 2022.
Meanwhile, the Protection of Workers (Retail) Act, which was delivered with the support of SGF, came into force in August 2021. The latest figures provided by Police Scotland show that the Act has been used 7,955 times to report retail specific cases of abuse or assault of staff and retailers. Up to 29th August 2023.
This information comes to light amidst a torrent of widespread shop theft, some of which involves organised crime groups, reports of staff resigning because they fear for their safety, and suspected losses worth millions of pounds to local businesses.
SGF has contacted the Scottish Government, the Lord Advocate, the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service, and the Courts & Tribunal Service calling for the figures on convictions relating to the Protection of Workers Act to be made public. This is essential information to show the Act is a working deterrent.
However, despite figures showing that over 2,600 cases have been referred to the Fiscal, none of these public bodies have been able to provide, or even hold, the relevant data on convictions.
Speaking at the SGF Annual Conference in Glasgow, Chief Executive Dr Pete Cheema OBE said: “Enough is enough, it is time for Ministers to stop sitting on their hands and put together a meaningful plan of action to tackle the tsunami of retail crime happening the length and breadth of Scotland.
“It is not only shop windows that are being shattered but people’s lives, their livelihoods, their health and their mental wellbeing. The level of retail crime that is now being experienced by the convenience sector is utterly shocking, and there is virtually no support from our justice system.
“Police Officers and our courts are run ragged. Criminals and organised groups now believe that they are untouchable.
“Just last week in the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister stated that crime is at a fifty-year low, while in the same breath claiming that the duty is on retailers to fix problems with underreporting. It beggars belief.
“SGF encourage all of our members to report every crime, but that is meaningless if the police don’t respond and don’t have the resources to hunt down the perpetrators and convict them when they do.
“People should not have to go to work knowing they will likely have to put up with threats, abuse and potentially violence. Recent reports form our members highlight that it isn’t just a bottle of wine or two that is going missing, whole shelves and kiosk counters are being emptied at knife point.
“If there isn’t action now, the situation will only get worse.”
SGF’s annual Scottish Retail Crime Report highlights that 100 per cent of respondents experience shop theft at least once a day and all experience abuse, violence or Hate Crime on a regular basis.
In addition, SGF have approached the Scottish Government to refresh their joint Don’t Put Up With It campaign, delivered in collaboration with Crime Stoppers. However, Ministers have said that there is no funding available to renew the campaign.