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Assaults on Retail Workers

– in the Scottish Parliament on 28th November 2019.

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Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

5. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to prevent assaults on retail workers. (S5O-03835)

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

Retail workers play an important role in our communities and it is right that they have legal protection as they go about their work. In 2019-20, the Scottish Government provided financial support to the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, which, among other matters, provides support to businesses to keep their staff safe while at work. Anyone assaulting a retail worker can be dealt with under existing criminal offences, with penalties all the way up to life imprisonment available to the courts.

Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

I remind the chamber that I am a member of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. In November, USDAW held its annual freedom from fear week and released its latest survey results of more than 1,000 retail staff, which showed a 25 per cent increase in assaults on retail workers compared to the previous year. Shockingly, it also revealed that 15 assaults on shop workers occur every day in Scotland. Given that and the fact that specific protections exist for workers such as border staff, emergency workers and police, is it not time to consider whether the law needs to change to protect shop workers also? Does the minister agree that people who are concerned about these issues should take part in the consultation exercise that the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee has just launched on my Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill?

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

Of course, when any prospective legislation is before this Parliament, it is incumbent on people to take part in a consultation. Just like Dan Johnson, I encourage people to take part in that process. As for his bill, we will consider any proposition for legislation that is advanced in good faith. I believe that Mr Johnson is advancing his bill on that basis, but we will of course need to consider its specific provisions. I know that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, who will lead on the bill, is considering it now, and the Scottish Government will respond in due course.