I am pleased to take part in the debate, and I congratulate Graeme Dey on securing it.
The Scottish Conservatives commend the Scottish Retail Consortium report, which is a very positive and welcome initiative from a sector that is of enormous importance to the Scottish economy. We are also pleased to join Graeme Dey and others in congratulating the SRC for exceeding all the targets that it set out in its 2008 report.
The Scottish Government could perhaps take a leaf out of the SRC’s book on meeting green targets. Indeed, I would be interested to learn what ministers will do to engage with the retail sector to learn from its success and what it does to achieve its targets.
The achievements that the private retail sector has recorded since 2008 are impressive. They include reducing carbon emissions from stores by 30 per cent and from store deliveries by 29 per cent. Those are very welcome achievements, given the very real challenges that we face in trying to reduce emissions further in other sectors like housing and transport.
As we have long argued, improving energy and resource efficiency and reducing carbon emissions are not incompatible with growing our economy. Rather, they should complement each other. As David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, states:
“Consumers are exceptionally well-informed and rightly demanding. They want quality, affordable products but they want them produced in an environmentally sustainable way. In such a highly competitive market the retailer that cannot meet this test will ultimately fail.”
Of course, as well as being good for the environment, increasing energy efficiency and reducing energy costs help companies’ bottom lines and reduce overheads. Being resource efficient is good business sense as well as good environmental sense.
The report highlights examples of good practice in the Scottish retail sector, and I am pleased to see a number of examples in my region.
The Co-Operative store in Kilmallie Road, Caol, Fort William is that retailer’s first shop to switch to biomass heating. The new system replaces ineffective electric heating with new fan coil heaters that are heated by a £130,000 biomass boiler that is located in a purpose-built building. The boiler runs on woodchip that is supplied from waste wood products and local forestry, of which there is masses in the area.
The new system has allowed the store to make an annual saving of almost half on its existing energy bill and 90 tonnes in carbon emissions. The Co-Op plans to assess how effective that biomass pilot has been and then consider its use elsewhere.
The new Waitrose store in Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute was designed with all the latest technologies, including LED lighting, low-carbon water-cooled refrigeration, low-flush cisterns and waterless urinals. It also won a Scottish design award.
I welcome the debate and the opportunity to acknowledge the very good work that Scotland’s retailers are doing. I wish them every success in meeting the new targets that they have set for 2020. The sector is happy to work closely with the Government but seems to be outperforming the public sector in achieving resource efficiency targets.