A number of staff from a large supermarket in Kirkcaldy have contacted me with concerns about a change to the limit on the number of customers allowed in the store in question. The store has previously limited that number to 350, but on 5 December that was increased to 963. What discussions has the Scottish Government had with major supermarket chains regarding the procedures that will be introduced to help to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to ensure that, in the run-up to Christmas, the safety of the public and staff is prioritised before profits?
I thank David Torrance for raising that important issue. Since the start of the pandemic there has been constant and on-going engagement with retailers, including very recent contact with nine major supermarkets, to ensure safe shopping environments for consumers and to obtain updates on the measures that they have in place. Such measures include ensuring a 2m distance between customers; limiting the number of customers in stores at any one time; managing customer movement through measures such as one-way systems; the mandatory use of face coverings, including in staff communal areas; the use of barrier screens at checkouts; and enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures. It is really important that retailers follow all such guidelines and take all appropriate mitigations.
As Christmas approaches, we all expect stores to be busier at times. It is therefore all the more important over the next few weeks that the safety of both staff and customers is prioritised. I would appeal to all retailers, particularly as level 4 restrictions end at 6 am tomorrow morning across 11 local authorities, to be really responsible and to put the safety of customers and staff at the top of their agenda.
I understand that retailers want to make up for lost business and will want customers to frequent their shops. However, if we have retail situations in which the virus is able to spread, we will end up going backwards in relation to our progress on the virus generally and the retail situation in particular. I make an open appeal to retailers to bear that in mind and to make sure that they continue to put the safety of not just their staff and customers but the country as a whole at the top of their agenda.