A hustings organised by the NFRN has seen five major Scottish parties agreeing on the need for more robust policing to tackle retail crime.
Five leading politicians – Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar, Minister for Community Safety Ash Denham, Maurice Golden of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine and Scottish Greens’ Anne Thomas – took part in the debate held online on 19 April, in the run up to the Scottish parliament elections on 6 May.
Admitting that retail crime was “a massive issue”, Sarwar said this was exacerbated by police failing to engage when small value items were stolen. He described policing efforts as “not good enough”, adding that too many women and BAME shopkeepers felt targeted.
“Too many people have to live in fear at work because of the colour of their skin, accent or sex,” he added.
Agreeing that current levels of crime were unacceptable, SNP’s Denham called for more education and more reporting of incidents to raise awareness of the scale of the issue.
Citing poverty as one of the factors behind retail crime, Thomas, Greens’ candidate in the Highlands and Islands, called for “better, more responsive policing”.
Edinburgh West MP Jardine blamed the frustrations of young people, citing their lost job opportunities and lost education. “The root of the problem is increasing inequality,” she said. “We have to improve our social projects and education to get people out of poverty.”
Jardine, party’s spokesperson for the Treasury and Trade, promised that the Liberal Democrats would reform business rates as high street retailers were unfairly hampered.
The Greens candidate also called for a review of business rates and said it would look to introduce a windfall tax on online retailers.
According to Golden, the Conservative candidate in West Scotland region, business rates were no longer suitable in a digital age. The system was unfair which was why the Conservatives would look to review them.
Sarwar also called for reform, explaining there was a need to address the imbalance between online retailers, the larger supermarkets and independent retailers.
Topics such as the impact of Brexit on the supply chain, Scottish independence and whether shop staff should be given priority Covid jabs were also covered in the hustings.
Speaking after the event, Scottish district president Ferhan Ashiq said: “The Scottish hustings was brilliant. It was a great opportunity for members to put their questions and concerns to the leading political figures from the five main parties in Scotland.”